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Intel cheers as AMD silently weeps

Intel Corp. had a quarter of ups and downs.  It was shocked when the Federal Trade Commission announced that it would be formally investigating whether the company, which controls roughly 80 to 90 percent of the worldwide microprocessor market, abused its dominant position in an illegal fashion. 

Despite this down, there were numerous ups.  Amidst a war of words with NVIDIA, Intel forged ahead with its upcoming discrete graphics offerings, set to take on NVIDIA and subsidiary ATI, owned by its chief microprocessor competitor, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).  Intel also was pleased to see a strong Centrino 2 launch with many partner products, after concerns stemming from some initial glitches and delays.

Intel now has even more good news -- the company just announced a strong quarterly report.

With reports from competitor AMD, Google Inc, International Business Machines Corp and Microsoft Corp all coming later this week, Intel set the bar high.  It reported a 25 percent rise in profit, thanks to healthy notebook processor demand.  It also beat expectations with its forecasted revenue.

The only disappointment in the report was in the gross margin, which fell slightly below the middle of Intel's projected target range.  This is thought to be again fueled by the same thing that boosted profits -- strong demand for cheap notebook computers.

Some are critical that despite the otherwise strong report the gross margin is a sign of weakness for Intel.  CRT Capital Group analyst Ashok Kumar stated, "The concern on the Street was that demand may be falling off the cliff. We've seen that in the handset market. So at least as Intel's results and outlook goes, we're not seeing similar weakness in the PC market."

However, even Kumar couldn't deny that Intel did well over the quarter, despite this troublesome indicator.  He added, "The only mild disappointment was in the gross margin line due to a higher mix of low-end notebooks, but overall I think the result was a surprise on the positive side, given the macro environment."

He argued, "I think right now investors are looking at technology as a glass that's half-empty and not half-full, but relative to other sectors, the negative earnings revisions in technology have been more mild.  And if we can navigate through seasonally weak summer months, we should get a seasonal tail-wind for the technology sector."

Intel's Chief Executive Paul Otellini on a conference call with analysts cheered the good news and added, "Demand for our leading-edge computing products around the world continues to be strong, with revenue and unit shipments towards the high end of the seasonal norm."

Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith told Reuters said the strong demand will continue in the second half of 2008, "The demand signals we're seeing are pretty strong."

Intel remains successful in the face of a key shift -- with notebooks finally surpassing desktops in sales, a feat long predicted.  This year notebook sales for the year are expected to indeed pass desktops for the first time.  Intel seemingly confirmed this saying that for the first time in excess of 50 percent of all the processors it shipped were mobile processors.  CFO Smith remarked, "It's a pretty important milestone."

Tough times may be ahead as Intel weathers the FTC storm and attempts to carve out a spot in the discrete graphics market, but it seems in good shape to meet the challenges that await.

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RE: The end of the desktop PC
By InternetGeek on 7/16/2008 8:28:30 PM , Rating: 2
I think you have it backwards. Intel is the speed king now because they started to use mobile technology on their desktop offerings. Core used to be a mobile technology that did not include HT but was very efficient both in from a speed and power consumption point of view. Though Centrino refers to the whole platform, the whole thing started when Intel lauched the M processors (Pentium M and so).

RE: The end of the desktop PC
By borismkv on 7/17/2008 5:17:38 AM , Rating: 2
Except that not even Intel expected the Centrino platform to perform as well as it did. Interestingly enough, the Pentium M's are closer to the Pentium III in architecture than they were to P4s.

The real capabilities of the Pentium M was limited, though, by the fact that it was shoved into a laptop. A slower clocked M could beat the pants off of most Pentium 4s (Not hard. P4 was crap from the start. The early P4s couldn't compete with similarly clocked P3s). However, there was a severe limitation in that it was impossible to deliver enough power to the CPU to truly unlock the Ms potential. This can be seen in some benchmarks during the short period that there were desktop motherboards that could run Pentium M chips. So Intel took portions of the design to the Desktop and it blew the roof off of everything. Now we're getting to the point where the same potential is able to go back into laptops, because CPUs are becoming much more efficient.

That's the way it works. You use the Desktop to perfect a design because it's not nearly as limited by power or size restraints, and then you put it in laptops.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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