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Intel Posts Strong Quarter, Talks New Atom Processors

Chipmaking giant Intel delivered some news its investors—and perhaps the whole technology sector—wanted to hear: sales are up. Intel’s financial results for the first fiscal quarter of 2010 show income that’s nearly four times over the previous year’s. Intel’s earnings for the quarter tallied up to some $2.4 billion, boosted in part by sales of high-end processors mainly used in server systems—exactly the kinds of sales many enterprises delayed as tough economic conditions forced them to tighten their belts. Demand for higher-end notebook systems also helped boost Intel’s profits as corporations got around to upgrading employees’ computers. Intel’s gross margin for the quarter was a whopping 63 percent.

“The investments we’re making in leading edge technology are delivering the most compelling product line-up in our history,” said Intel president and CEO Paul Otellini, in a statement. “These leadership products combined with growing worldwide demand and continued outstanding execution resulted in Intel’s best first quarter ever.”

Meanwhile, at the Intel Developer Forum underway in Beijing, Intel has outlined new system-on-a-chip products under the codename “Tunnel Creek.” The new designs are aimed at systems like in-vehicle entertainment systems, printers, IP phones, and other media-savvy devices, and are based on Intel’s successful Atom processor line. With Tunnel Creek systems, system makers will be able to make PCI Express devices that connect directly to the chip. Intel sees these systems being key to the development of new types digital media-capable devices—what they’re calling “media phones”—sine they combine a processor, memory controller, graphics engine, and video engine all onto a single chip. Chinese carmaker Hawtai has already announced plans to incorporate systems based on Intel Atom processors and it’s forthcoming MeeGo operating system (being developed in conjunction with Nokia), starting with its B11 luxury sedan.

And speaking of Atom processors, Intel CEO Paul Otellini mentioned during the earnings call covering the company’s first-quarter results that the company has a new dual-core Atom processor on track for a release in the second quarter of 2010. Given that Intel already ships dual-core Atom processors for desktop (or “nettop”) systems, industry watchers speculate Intel is getting ready to launch a dual-core version of the Atom processor for mobile computers like notebooks and netbooks—and maybe even the occasional tablet device. Although a dual core Atom would undoubtedly consume more power than its single-core brethren, it might help bridge the significant performance gap between current netbooks and even low-end traditional notebooks.

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