Updated from May 12


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stock soared after the closing bell Thursday after the graphics chipmaker reported net income tripled in its first quarter.

The results, which were fueled by strong sales, beat the Street's top- and bottom-line expectations. The company declined to give specific guidance for its current quarter, but did offer an outlook that appeared to be above analysts' expectations.

"We have solidly returned the company to growth," said CEO Jen-Hsun Huang on a conference call.

Investors cheered the report, sending shares up $2.18, or 9.6%, to $24.97 in early Friday trading.

In the period ending May 1, Nvidia earned $64.44 million, or 36 cents a share. That result was up sharply from the year-ago quarter when the company earned $21.35 million, or 12 cents a share.

Sales jumped 24% year over year to $583.85 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting the company to earn 28 cents a share on $581.41 million in sales in the quarter. The company's

guidance in its last quarterly report implied earnings of about 24 cents to 32 cents a share on sales ranging from $566.5 million to $594.8 million.

Nvidia's second-quarter outlook was short on specific numbers or ranges. But company CFO Marvin Burkett did say that projected revenue would be "flat to slightly up" in the current quarter from the first quarter. Gross margins will likely be up 50 to 100 basis points as a portion of sales from the first quarter.

On the expense side, the company's operating costs will be up 5% to 10% from the first quarter, Burkett said. But the company expects its tax rate to decline in coming quarters -- possibly even in the current one.

Add that all up, and it looks like the company is expecting earnings to drop somewhat -- perhaps to about 30 cents a share assuming the pessimistic end of the company's expectations -- on flattish sales, compared with its first quarter.

Still, that's a better outlook than analysts had anticipated. For the current quarter, analysts predicting that the company would earn 27 cents a share on sales of $579.64 million.

Nvidia did have some disappointing news for investors in the quarter. Sales of chips for wireless phones came in lower than expectations. The company doesn't expect revenue from its handset chips to pick up until the second half of the year. As a result, the chipmaker took a $5 million charge in the quarter for excess inventory.

On a separate front, the company expects to stop shipping graphics chips for


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Xbox at the end of this quarter. Microsoft is ceasing production of the device, and Nvidia expects to have no more inventory of its chips for the Xbox at the end of the quarter, Burkett said.

Nvidia rival

ATI Technologies


is providing the graphics chips for the new Xbox, which Microsoft will unveil in a television special Thursday night. The new Xbox is expected to be on store shelves later this year.

But Nvidia may have a much better opportunity in a deal it signed with


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. Under that contract, the company will provide graphics chips for the successor to Sony's PlayStation 2, which is expected to hit stores next year. Sony's PlayStation 2 console dominated the current generation of video-game hardware.

The chipmaker expects the Sony deal to make up for the loss of its Xbox revenue, Burkett said.

Nvidia shares closed regular trading up 49 cents, or 2.2%, to $22.79.