Browsing through the trading numbers early this morning reveals that the chip sector, which I wrote about on Monday, took a hit with the news that Texas Instruments might come in with lower revenues than expected.

TI tightened its revenue outlook Monday, slightly raising its midpoint but also pointing to ongoing weaknesses in the wireless chip market. It’s stock dropped about 2.5% as a result, although National Semiconductor dodged that bullet, and saw its stock price rise by 1%, thanks to a good prognosis for the analog market, a strong market for the chip giant.

There’s also more news from AT&T, on top of its new iPhone strategy which we covered last night. Yesterday, AT&T began offering the Centro, Palm's new flagship smartphone based on the Palm OS. The $100 smartphone comes with multimedia capabilities and several services exclusive to AT&T.

AT&T has a good plan going, covering the smartphone niche from top to bottom with the iPhone and now the new Palm. The Centro seems to offer some nice features, like basic email and texting, along with access to music downloads, GPS navigation, an XM radio link, and live TV, for an additional price.

But what really interest me is the emerging mega-demographic buyer of smartphones – women. According to consumer buying data relased by Palm, more women than men purchased the Centro. In fact, the number of women was almost double the number of men.

The Centro's $100 price tag is an attractive selling point for budget conscious households – and we all know who runs budget conscious households – moms do.

Consequently, the Palm numbers are telling us that the smartphone consumer terrain is shifting. According to Nielson Mobile, the number of women buying smartphones nearly doubled to 10.4 million in the last year. Says Nielson: “The iPhone played a large role in this increase, with nearly one out of every three iPhones being owned by a woman. But companies like Research In Motion and Palm have also seen an increase in female ownership.”

Nielson makes some compelling points about the growing power of female smartphone buyers, including how women are more price sensitive than men about their devices, and are half as likely to care if they've used a brand before.

But the capper on the jug for me – and a huge new opportunity for smartphone providers – is that the Nielson research also showed that women are the household financial gatekeepers, as 71% of them make decisions about their families' wireless choices.

With the iPhone and now the new Palm smartphone, AT&T is in a great position to land its products into the sweetest landing spot on earth – the household. With more women as the decision makers, and as more women make the consumer buying choices in the home, that’s a beautiful script for AT&T – one, in fact, that it could have written itself.