NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) handed investors a pleasant surprise last week. Anyone who's seen last quarter's earnings knows why the chip maker's latest numbers were something to celebrate -- even if the sales figures didn't quite match up with what Wall Street analysts were looking for.

Second-quarter net income at NVIDIA increased 1,362% to $74.8 million, or $0.41 per share. While those earnings exceeded Wall Street's expectations, revenues fell short of analysts' projections, increasing 26% to $574.8 million. The company attributed the improved quarter to increased sales and cost controls. To say the least, it's not too shabby for a company that previously said it expected the quarter to come in flat to slightly up.

NVIDIA is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick, and its chips have found their way into many of today's hottest gadgets. The company's signature graphics and digital media processors power such applications as video game consoles (think Sony's (NYSE:SNE) next-generation PlayStation 3) and multimedia-rich 3G mobile phones, not to mention PCs, notebooks, workstations, and PDAs.

While NVIDIA may seem to have the advantage in its flourishing sector, there's still steep competition for its customer base. Archrival ATI Technologies (NASDAQ:ATYT) has made some headway, usurping NVIDIA as the provider of chips for Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) next-generation Xbox. (In fact, this is the last quarter in which NVIDIA will see Xbox revenues.) Industry veteran Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) also covets a piece of the action.

Not surprisingly, NVIDIA shares have risen after the surprise victory it shared on Thursday. As long as it can keep competition at bay and continue to provide the chips that propel next-generation applications, its forward P/E of 19 might not look too terribly pricey. For now, at least, NVIDIA seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Further pixel-pushing Foolishness:

NVIDIA is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor stock. To find out what other companies have been singled out by David and Tom Gardner for market-beating returns, click here for a free trial.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.