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Inside Intel Today

Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara, California.
Paul Sakuma
Intel's headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

This is an important week for Intel, a company at a kind of competitive and technological crossroads.

The company is hosting its annual developers' forum in San Francisco, with chairman and former CEO Craig Barrett delivering today's keynote.

His talk comes against a backdrop of heady times for the world's largest chipmaker:

On one hand, times are really good: Intel posted strong earnings last month, its outlook was rosy, there seems to be no signs of global slowdown, PC sales continue to be robust, laptops are booming, and its only real competitor, Advanced Micro Devices, is in such a state of financial disarray that its CEO Hector Ruiz was pushed out of day-to-day control there.

But as Intel will tell you, success often-times brings contempt. Funny how when times are dire industry-wide, no one seems to cry foul over Intel's business practices.

But as soon as the company crows about its success, anti-trust and anti-competitive charges come out of the woodwork. I'm not saying Intel has been a model corporate global competitor. The company plays hard, fights hard, and probably pushes the envelope when it comes to business practices.

(See my interview with CEO Barrett in the video, at left.)

So there are a number of investigations under way. The New York State Attorney General, European Union, South Korea, Japan and others are after this company. In a big way. And who knows whether any of these charges will stick. And what it could cost the company in penalties and PR.

In the meantime, Intel continues to innovate, and its Core i7 and Atom microprocessors have been enormously well received. Hewlett-Packard (reporting earnings later Tuesday), which had been migrating more toward AMD chips recently, swung the other way yesterday by unveiling three new laptops all running Intel chips instead.

HP apparently sees Intel as a way to give it a competitive edge over rival Dell -- which is also relying more on AMD chips recently, which has been enjoying a kind of marketplace renaissance of its own lately.

Barrett's speech focused on Intel's opportunities overseas and why all of tech needs to follow its lead.

Barrett visits 30 countries a year as a kind of modern day tech-industry Johnny Appleseed, bringing electronic innovation to regions that don't have it; using tech to lift people out of poverty, raise their standards of living, healthcare and education.

A billion people online around the world today leaves 5 billion more who aren't: an incredible market opportunity not just for Intel, but for IBM, Microsoft, Cisco and so many others. He pushed Intel's WiMax -- high speed but comparatively low-cost wireless gear -- big time, saying it will touch millions of people globally by year's end.

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