Intel’s sunny outlook timed to overshadow AMD

September 10, 2007, 9:42 AM UTC

Intel (INTC) today announced that sales and profits for the quarter should be on the high end of its previously conservative estimates, an announcement that’s timed to steal some thunder from rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

Intel said sales should be between $9.4 billion and $9.8 billion this quarter, compared to previous estimates of $9 billion to $9.6 billion. Profit should be on the upper end of its range of 52 percent, plus or minus a few points.

Intel watchers will note that there’s not much news in this announcement. When executives talked to analysts about earnings two months ago, analysts seemed to feel Intel’s revenue and earnings guidance for the third quarter weren’t that aggressive to begin with. The new targets today are only slightly more optimistic; Intel added $.2 billion to the high end of its range, and shaved $.4 billion off the low end. It’s not clear that its profit margin projections have changed much at all.

So why is Intel making this announcement now? Only Intel execs know for sure, but it’s probably more than a coincidence that arch-enemy AMD is making its biggest product announcement in years today, its quad-core Barcelona chip.

AMD’s Barcelona is important because the chip is actually more technologically advanced than Intel’s quad core offering. Rather than offer two dual-core chips tied together, AMD’s Barcelona has four cores on one dye. An AMD executive told me the company worked hard to be sure that existing customers will be able to upgrade to Barcelona with minimal hassle, so he expects that Barcelona adoption could be faster than usual for a chip launch like this one.

One of the things that could crimp AMD’s style, though, is Intel’s PR machine. If Intel can convince the technology world that it has the momentum these days, it might be able to delay Barcelona adoption. Delays work to Intel’s favor – it has a new slate of quad-core chips due next year that should close the design gap with Barcelona.

To try to keep its message front and center, AMD is hosting events today in San Francisco. One this afternoon at a downtown hotel will allow a small group of bloggers to rub elbows with executives and ask questions. Later tonight, a big bash at the Presidio promises to emulate the glitz of a movie premiere.

AMD will have to grab the spotlight while it can. Next week is Intel’s biggest event of the year, the Intel Developer Forum, which will also take place in San Francisco.