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Intel paints rosy future at Taiwan confab

Meltdown? What Meltdown?

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Computex Despite the inarguable fact that the computer industry is mired in its worst sales decline ever, Intel is upbeat about the future.

In his keynote speech on Tuesday at the huge Computex trade show in Taipei, Tawian, Intel's EVP and chief sales and marketing officer Sean Maloney chose to focus not on today's problems, but instead on tomorrow's "tremendous future growth throughout the computing and communications industries," according to an Intel release.

Throughout the Meltdown, Intel has been relentlessly optimistic. During an April earnings report, for example, Intel's president and CEO Paul Otellini said "I believe the worst is now behind us." At last month's meeting of Intel investors he described Intel's business as "a little better than we expected."

Whistling in the dark, maybe. But it must be admitted that Intel is putting its money where its mouth is. The company announced this February that it would invest $7bn (£4.2bn) to upgrade chip factories in the US.

And Tuesday at Computex, Maloney discussed and demoed some of the chips that those investments will produce. For example, he gave the first public demo of the two-chip Atom-based platform known as Pine Trail, along with a demo of version 2.0 of the Linux-based Moblin OS designed for such small form-factor, low-power systems.

Maloney said such systems would help bridge the oft-discussed "digital divide," helping to bring computing to the five billion earthlings who have yet to get their hands on a PC. He disclosed that the divide-bridging effort will include an initiative called "Project Blue" that Intel is working on in India to develop Atom-based, WiMAX-equipped nettops - the low-cost desktop equivalents of netbooks.

On the big-chip front, Maloney reaffirmed that the quad-core, Nehalem-based Lynnfield desktop and Clarksfield mobile 45nm processors will appear in the second half of this year - although he did not specify ship dates - to be followed "soon after" by the 32nm Westmere mobile and desktop chips.

He also boasted that "Our next-generation chipsets are taking our 32nm processor performance to mainstream PCs with products such as Clarkdale and Arrandale dramatically improving the PC experience." But again he declined to provide firm ship dates for those dual-core chips, which have been reported to make their debuts either late this year or early next.

Being a polite guest, Maloney also congratulated his host country on a recent milestone: Taiwan's production of the one-billionth Intel-based desktop motherboard. Ponder that number for a moment - if laid end-to-end, for example, one billion ATX motherboards would circle the earth over seven and a half times.

Maloney's positive attitude brings to mind the old joke about that half-filled glass. The optimist says it's half full, the pessimist says it's half empty - but the engineer says that it's twice as big as it needs to be.

It remains to be seen whether the microprocessor business was bigger than it needed to be before the Meltdown - but it's clear that Intel is siding with the aforementioned optimist. ®

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