Since I haven't yet actually bought shares for my own account, I suppose I should be relieved that Linear Technology (NASDAQ:LLTC) hasn't exactly rocketed to the moon yet. In fact, nearly the whole chip sector has failed to launch this summer -- which, if my memory hasn't been completely eroded by TV, is not that unusual compared to past years.

Nevertheless, I'm still a long-term fan of this high-end analog chipmaker. Sales this quarter were up 15% from last year, and about 5% from the fiscal third quarter. And though both average selling prices (ASPs) and gross margins eroded a bit, they didn't drop enough to really worry me. As for profits . well, it depends whether you want to go with reported or adjusted numbers. Reported growth of 7% isn't anything to get excited about, but when you adjust both periods for option expense, you get a growth rate of 13%, and that's good enough.

Given what I wrote earlier today about ASML (NASDAQ:ASML), and how the semiconductor industry seems to be getting harder and harder to forecast, guidance from Linear's management was rather comforting in one sense. It said that the outlook for the next quarter was pretty murky. Not necessarily "women and children to the lifeboats" murky -- more like "don't expect a blowout" murky. At least I'm not the only one whose crystal ball has turned into a cueball.

Much as I think Linear is one of the best chip companies out there -- if not the best -- the future seems to this Fool to be mostly about boosting the top line. Linear already has fantastic margins, and with companies like Intersil (NASDAQ:ISIL) moving upmarket into higher-margin business, and other rivals like Maxim (NASDAQ:MXIM) and Analog Devices (NYSE:ADI) continuing to compete, gross margin growth seems like a tall order. But with a proven ability to adapt existing cores to new product applications, I think Linear should be well-positioned to exploit new opportunities as they arise.

It's getting very tempting to buy these shares, even with the summer doldrums making the markets a little trickier. By the same token, other chip stocks out like Silicon Labs (NASDAQ:SLAB) and OmniVision (NASDAQ:OVTI) have some charms as well. Shop around, my fellow Fools.

For more chippy Foolishness:

Silicon Labs is a Stock Advisor recommendation. To see what other companies David and Tom Gardner have recommended to investors since 2002, click here for a 30-day free trial.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned . yet (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).