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Intel's Chip Off the New Block

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) will report its third-quarter results after Tuesday's closing bell. Naturally, many investors are nervously waiting to see whether revenues will fall on the upside or the downside. As an Intel investor, I hope for the former. But as a long-term investor, I'm not much concerned one way or another.

What I'm more excited about is yesterday's announcement from Intel officials that the company has begun sending out samples of its next-generation Montecito Itanium chip to a few select customers. Just a few years ago, Intel was saying it didn't expect the product to be on the market until 2007.

The Montecito represents an important benchmark in chip technology because it's the first processor to place more than a billion transistors -- 1.72 billion, to be precise -- on a single die. To put this in perspective, consider that IBM's Power5 chip has fewer than 300 million transistors. And, just to add a little historical perspective, Intel first put more than a million transistors on a single die fewer than 20 years ago.

This technological advancement, together with Intel's long-term strategy -- which I wrote about this past May -- will keep the pressure on Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , and Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW  ) by continuing to supply the computer industry with chips that make their platforms more flexible, manageable, and secure. More specifically from the perspective of the end user, the Montecito will allow servers and, soon, mobile processors to do many jobs simultaneously.

But even more impressive than the mere performance issues associated with this greater of transistors is that the Montecito runs more efficiently while also producing less heat. (More heat is typically generated as the number of transistors on a chip increases, and the management of that heat is regarded as one of the semiconductor industry's greatest challenges.) And anytime a company can improve the performance and versatility of its technology without a corresponding increase in power consumption, it is on to something.

So regardless of what Intel announces after the close of the bell on Tuesday, I remain bullish on the company's long-term prospects because of its ability to bring high-performance products like Montecito to market ahead of schedule.

Fool contributor Jack Uldrich has been thinking small since grade school. He is the author of The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. He owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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