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PC chip sales up, shipments flat in Q2

AMD climbs as Intel slips

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Shipments of microprocessors for netbook, notebook, desktop PCs and related x64-based servers and workstations flatlined in the second quarter as the economy stumbled a bit in the United States and Europe.

Consumers held back on PC purchases while also spending some of their hard-earned cash on tablets. The good news is that revenues were up as people bought beefier and pricier machines, many of them with integrated graphics processors on their CPUs.

According to the chip counters at IDC, sales of PC processors were up 5.4 per cent in the second quarter, to $9.49bn. Shipments were up only six-tenths of a per cent, essentially flat. IDC said that sequential comparisons with the first quarter of 2011 were not exactly fair, since Q1 had 14 weeks this year, compared to 13 weeks for Q2. Nonetheless, on a sequential basis, CPU shipments for PCs were off 2.9 per cent in the second quarter, and revenues were off 4 per cent compared to Q1 2011. Without that extra week, IDC said that revenues and shipments would have seen an uptick.

Intel's "Sandy Bridge" Core chips and Advanced Micro Devices' "Brazos" and "Llano" Fusion APU chips, all of which put graphics-processing units inside the CPU chip package, took off like wildfire in Q2. IDC estimates that more than 60 per cent of the PC chips that were shipped in the second quarter were ceepie-geepie hybrids.

In terms of unit shipments, AMD gained a little market share thanks to the Fusion APUs, with 20.4 per cent of total PC microprocessor shipments in the second quarter, a gain of 1.5 points of market share compared to the first quarter. Intel had a commanding 79.3 per cent share of the PC microprocessor pie, and lost that 1.5 points of share. Tiny VIA Technologies had a mere three-tenths of a per cent of the PC chip pie.

Intel had a bigger slice of the mobile PC microprocessor market in Q2, with 84.4 per cent of total shipments in this sub-segment, but it lost more ground, too, with 1.9 points of share compared to the first quarter of the year. Almost all of that share – 1.8 points – was lost to AMD, which got a 15.2 per cent slice of the mobile PC racket in the second quarter. VIA Technologies got that extra one-tenth of a point, with four-tenths of a per cent market share in Q2.

For desktop PC microprocessors, Intel had 70.9 per cent share of shipments in Q2, with AMD getting 28.9 per cent; 1.5 points of share were transferred from Intel to AMD in the quarter.

Serve's up

IDC lumps x64-based workstations and servers together in one lump, and AMD continued to lose ground here and Intel demonstrated utter dominance. Intel accounted for 94.5 per cent of all workstation and server chip shipments based on x64 processors, an increase of six-tenths of a point compared to Q1 2011.

AMD lost that six-tenths of a point and was left with 5.5 per cent market share of CPU shipments.

IDC still mixes in server and PC chip revenues and shipments as if it's 1995, and the x64 architecture does not have "real" server chips and because it is hard to tease out desktop and server chip sales based on the quarterly financial reports from AMD and Intel. It would be interesting to see how much the boom in x64 server sales is propping up IDC's PC chip sales figures. (Server shipments are a tiny fraction of overall shipments, on the order of 4 million units a quarter.) IDC's chip analyst was unavailable for comment at press time.

Looking ahead, IDC expects for "economic headwinds in developed regions" to adversely affect consumer demand for PCs, and the company is therefore reducing its forecast.

IDC now expects for PC chip shipments (including those for x64-based servers) to rise by only 9.3 per cent this year, one point of growth lower than its earlier prognostication. ®

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