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AMD to overtake Intel in 2017...

...but only if you read too much into the market share stats

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Since time immemorial - at least that's what it feels like - Intel has dominated the PC chip market and the latest figures from market watcher Mercury Research offer no sign of a change to the status quo.

AMD fanboys will be tickled to know that the chip giant saw its market share slide from 83.5 per cent in Q1 to just 82.7 per cent, down a whopping, a humungous... er... four-fifths (0.8) of a percentage point.

Some of that loss was picked by AMD, which saw its market share rise by an almost equally monumental half a percentage point (0.5) to 15.5 per cent. The remaining third (0.3) of a percentage point that the chip giant haemorrhaged during Q2 went to Transmeta and VIA for them the squabble over the spoils. Together those two account for 1.8 per cent of the x86 market.

Compared to Q2 2003, AMD's share was down - by a tenth of percentage point (0.1) - while Intel's was up by the same amount.

The good news for AMD enthusiasts is that, at this rate of sequential gain and Intel's quarterly 0.8 percentage point decline, AMD will overtake Intel in exactly 13 years' time - sometime in Q2 2017. Assuming, of course, that Transmeta doesn't suddenly spring forward and steal the market from both of them...

Sorry, folks, but to all intents and purposes the market remained exactly the same, between Q1 and Q2 this year, and between Q2 2004 and Q2 2003. So while more customers bought x86 processors in Q2 2004 than they did in the year-ago quarter, effectively the proceeds were split between AMD and Intel by the same ratio.

There is a serious side to Mercury's numbers, however, where they relate to market structure. Q2 saw a shift toward lower-priced processors, and that favoured AMD, particularly in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, India and China. AMD has done much to court PC vendors in these territories, and that will pay off further over time.

The shift to lower-priced processors is mirrored in the big chipmakers own strategies, with AMD reviving its low-end range as Sempron, due to ship this month, and Intel preparing a line of 775-pin Socket T Celerons.

As we've reported before, Celeron has proved popular in Western Europe, particularly in the mobile space by allowing the prices of desktop replacement machines to be pushed right down.

Such causes and effects seem to suggest that there's more to the growth in low-cost CPU shipments seen in Q2 than the traditional shift in that direction experienced during Q2. ®

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