LA QUINTA, Calif. -- The short-term prognosis on

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

: the first quarter is going to be a nail-biter.

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Speaking Wednesday at the

Goldman Sachs Technology Investment Symposium

here, Intel CFO Andy Bryant summed up how business is looking midway through the quarter. "We've seen pockets of strength in ordering," he said. "But we've also seen some weaker than expected. It's what you'd have expected. The next five or six weeks will make or break the quarter."

Intel is scheduled to report its first-quarter earnings on April 17. Analysts expect it will earn 21 cents a share in the period, according to

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

Smell of Fear

But Bryant didn't want to talk about the short-term.

Bryant's address sounded an increasingly familiar theme among technology executives this week: The present downturn represents an opportunity. No longer will all companies rise with the tide of the economy's expansion. Rather, those that that retrench out of fear will get crushed by those plowing forward with spending.

Bryant touted Intel's

decision to increase its capital expenditures in an uncertain business climate as a prescient commitment to the company's long-term vision of a world in which demand for the silicon will continue to explode. Citing Intel's push toward 0.13 micron production technology and 300 mm. wafers, Bryant said, "Both these are technologies that, if the economic downturn turns in the next 12 to 18 months, will give us a substantial advantage over those who couldn't" continue to invest in technology. (Intel

presented Monday at the

Robertson Stephens

conference in San Francisco.)

Monday,

EMC

(EMC)

Chairman Mike Ruettgers made a similar appeal to attendees of the Goldman conference. Ruettgers said that EMC was looking at the slowdown as an immense opportunity, a chance to gain share against timid competitors. "The general perception is that the slowdown in the U.S. will last two quarters, with a rebound in the second half," he said. "If that's so, no CEO is making a major departure from what he's doing" in terms of spending on information technology.