updated 02:10 pm EDT, Fri July 21, 2006
Merom, Conroe ship early
Following lower-than-expected earnings, Intel this week quietly began shipping its next-generation Core 2 Duo processors ahead of schedule. The new 64-bit dual-core chips for mobile and desktop systems -- formerly code-named Merom and Conroe -- were previously slated for late July and August (respectively). Earlier this week, a report from overseas suggested that Merom would be announced alongside Conroe, but still ship in August. In an official statement this week, Intel said it will formally announce Conroe on July 27. The chip maker is expected to ship 2.0GHz, 2.1GHz, and 2.33GHz variants of Merom with 4MB of L2 cache for performance gains of 20 percent over the previous-generation "Yonah" -- which is currently used in Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro systems. Along with the performance increases and pure 64-bit architecture, the new laptop chips will be more power efficient, boasting the same power consumption at equivalent speeds. Industry watchers speculate that Apple will likely upgrade its high-end MacBook Pros to the new architecture before the holiday season.
Intel last month boosted the speed of its current-generation Yonah chips to 2.33GHz, although Apple still only offers the 2.16GHz version in its fastest notebooks. If Apple does utilize the newer Merom chips in the MacBook Pro line, it may also boost speeds of its current MacBooks, which are available in both 1.83GHz and 2.0GHz speeds. Despite shipping the new products, Intel is not expected to cut prices on its current-generation Yonah chips until early September.
Intel's processor designed for desktops -- Conroe -- were slated for shipment next week. Some industry watchers are expecting the next revision of Apple's iMac Core Duo to sport Intel's new Conroe desktop chip as well.
Earlier this week, Intel said that its plans to release quad-core processors as early as the fourth quarter of this year. Both Kentsfield (for desktops) and Clovertown (for servers and workstations) feature two "Conroe" or "Woodcrest" cores on a single chip; however, Apple's professional line of desktops, expected to be announced at Apple's WWDC Developer conference in August, is expected to sport Intel's dual-core Intel Xeon Processor 5100 series, codenamed "Woodcrest." The processors are based on the chip maker's Core Microarchitecture, the same chip technology used in Apple's Intel-based Macs.
Intel earnings fall short
Intel this week also said that pricing and expense pressures caused the company to miss profit expectations for the third quarter. Intel reported lower-than-expected earnings of $1.9 billion, or 55 cents a share on slightly higher-than-expected revenue of $7.33 billion. Although Intel is shipping more products than ever before, the increased volume is not compensating for lower prices, according to management.
"Revenue growth was a little better than expected. Margin percentage was a little worse than expected," Intel CFO Andy Bryant told investors. The company's gross margin, which Intel had expected to increase, fell from 59.4 percent to 58.7 percent, Bryant said.