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Energy Sails: Chips Ahoy!

It's new, it's hot, and everyone's doing it. What, you ask? Energy-efficient computer chips. They're all the rage among chip makers -- and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) has already set sail.

Not far behind are competitors Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , and Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW  ) . They're all bowing to peer pressure to make more efficient chips. But Intel is going one step further and revamping the chip as we know it.

The products that Intel and its competitors have manufactured in the past are still based on relatively primitive technology, focused primarily on chip speed. Intel went back to the drawing board to reinvent what is really the engine of any computer -- the chip. The new chip, due out by late 2006, will save energy by improving performance per watt, as well as providing increased computer security.

As Intel brings its technology to market, forcing competitors to work harder to remain profitable, it will be interesting to see whether the company bears the cost of being a first mover.

A look at the numbers behind Intel's story is reassuring. With 82% of the market, Intel is sitting pretty, its market capitalization at $156.16 billion -- larger than any of its competitors. Intel's profit margin of 22.45% for the past 12 months also outdoes its competitors. With all of the company's success and robust financial health, it's important to look ahead to the future to see if Intel can improve its top line or, at the very least, maintain profitability with its new product.

While big things are on tap for the company and its shareholders, there is one bump in the road. Intel's 82% market share prompted AMD to bring a lawsuit against it, charging the company with violating antitrust laws. The amount of cash AMD could be awarded if it has its way in court is still unclear, but Intel could certainly fall back on its serious stash of cash -- free cash flow of $6.96 billion for the past 12 months. Even if AMD succeeds in taking some of Intel's dough, it will hardly keep the company from reaping the rewards of its innovative engineering.

Bottom line: Intel is once again doing big things. Its new product design puts it in "the sweet spot." It could be just the ticket to propel Intel forward in a cash cow industry. Once the lawsuit cloud settles, investors should have a better understanding of Intel's bright future.

Related Foolishness on the Intel/AMD battle:

Fool contributor Jennifer Schonberger does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Click here to see The Motley Fool's disclosure policy.

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