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Friday, July 21, 2006, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Intel actively shipping both Merom and Conroe

In the wake of a gloomy earnings forecast, Intel Corp. this week said it has commenced shipments of both Conroe and Merom, its new Core 2 Duo dual-core microprocessors for desktop and notebook systems.

During its earnings report on Wednesday, the world's largest chip maker said it quietly pushed the first shipments of its Core 2 Duo desktop processor out the door last quarter, ahead of its formal launch on July 27.

"The mobile PC version of the Intel Core 2 Duo processor is also shipping now, one month ahead of schedule," the company wrote in a set of presentation slides.

Indeed, a report from overseas this week had suggested that Intel would advance the releases of Merom to coincide with Conroe in late July. Intel has scheduled the official launch for both chips for next Thursday.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has been taking a financial bruising at hands of rival AMD, which has in turn spurred a price war between the two companies.

Intel on Wednesday said its second quarter profits decreased nearly 57 percent to $885 million amid stiff competition and a shift in consumer demand towards cheaper products. What's worse, the company gave little indication that conditions would improve during the second half of the year.

AMD, which also released quarterly results this week, said net profits rose sharply to $88.8 million, or 18 cents per share, compared to $11.3 million, or 3 cents during the year-ago quarter. But the chip maker's upbeat earnings were similarly clouded by fears that its price war with Intel would soon worsen.

For its part in the battle, Intel appears poised on delivering its latest chip designs to customers at an unprecedented pace. In addition to the early shipments of Conroe and Merom, the company this week also announced that it has bumped the release of its first quad-core desktop and server chips up to the fourth quarter of this year.

Intel hopes the new lines of dual- and quad-core chips will help stem market share gains by AMD and aid its bleeding shares, which have lost about a third of their value in the last 12 months.

Apple Computer, which recently switched its Mac line to Intel chips, is likely to adopt Conroe and Merom Core 2 Duo processors in future revisions of its desktop and notebook computers.

Apple's MacBook Pro notebooks currently employ Intel's Yonah Core Duo processors. Since Merom was designed to be backwards compatible with Yonah platforms, Apple's first move could come in the form of an abrupt boost to its professional laptop line.