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Intel Corp.’s chief executive said during a conference call with analysts that it expects volume of mobile chips it sells to exceed the volume of desktop microprocessors already this year, not in 2009, as it was believed a while ago. What Paul Otellini from Intel did not point out were the exact reasons for this crossover, which may involve quite a number of factors.

“As we look forward in the course of the year, […] the crossover from the desktop to the notebook [is] happening essentially a year sooner than we first had thought. I think that is a good news for Intel given the strength of our product lineup on the Centrino side and now with the netbooks and Atom starting to show fairly good volume projections,” said Paul Otellini, president and chief executive of Intel Corp.

Intel has been heavily investing into mobile central processing units (CPUs) for many years now in anticipation that sales of notebooks once exceed sales of desktops. Even though in some countries sales of Intel-based laptops started to exceed sales of Intel-based desktops several years ago, this is still not the case when it comes to the global volume of Intel’s microprocessors. For example, in Japan people have space constraints and notebooks are very popular, however, in Easter Europe a lot of people are concerned about the price and desktops are more tailored for those markets.

On the one hand, it is indisputable fact that the popularity of mobile computers has been rising for years, but the reason for desktop and mobile microprocessor unit shipments crossover may not be a result of this increasing popularity, but a number of factors, one of which is availability of really affordable mobile devices.

Numerous manufacturers these days are actively promoting low-cost “netbooks” like Asus Eee PC, which are hardly suitable for work, but are affordable enough to buy as a gadget. Later this year mobile Internet devices (MIDs) based on Intel Atom microprocessors will emerge and everything points out to the fact that those products will also get relatively popular. During the conference call with financial analysts Intel’s chief financial officer said that netbooks play a substantial role in unit shipments increase.

“I would call out the ramp of the netbook products as something that I see being a contributor over the course of the year and we are going to start to see the impact of that in the second quarter. It does look to be driving some incremental unit growth beyond what I thought when I first set my forecast for the year,” said Stacy Smith, Intel’s CFO.

Initially Intel Atom processors are designed for relatively specialized mobile devices. But as the company develops new process technologies and creates new micro-architectures for its mobile CPUs, Intel Atom chips may easily find themselves inside mobile phones, which will transform Intel’s desktop microprocessor business into something relatively minor in terms of volume. There were more than 1.15 billion cell phones and 271.2 million personal computers sold worldwide in 2007, according to Gartner market tracking firm.

Intel did not disclose when mobile processors exceed desktop chips in terms of revenue.


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