Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has been moving up in the retail world, a new report shows. But, despite gaining share in desktops, AMD continues to face stiff competition from Intel Corp. in notebook PCs.
During October, 49.8 percent of the personal computers sold by retail stores in the United States contained an AMD processor, while 48.5 percent held a chip from Intel Corp., a report by Current Analysis Inc. shows. The San Diego, Calif., firm tracks sales at retail stores such as Best Buy.
Although its not the first time AMD has surpassed Intel in one category or another at retail—AMD edged out Intel in desktops during September, for example, Current Analysis said—the October figures appear to show AMD riding a wave.
The Sunnyvale, Calif., companys retail market share surged from around 20 percent in June to almost 40 percent in July. Intel, meanwhile, saw its monthly numbers drop from near 80 percent in June to about 60 percent in July.
During August, the trend reversed itself. Intels share moved up to about the mid-60s and AMDs fell to around 30 percent. September saw AMD come back and Intel once again dip, Intel arriving at shares of 59.6 percent, while AMD held 38.8 percent, Current Analysis figures show.
"Intel had no real low-end desktop offering in October. So it lost a lot of sales there," said Matt Sargent, the firms director of research. Meanwhile, "The [Intel] Pentium 4 wasnt price competitive with [AMDs] Athlon 64. Those factors combined to submerge Intel in October."
NPD Group, which also measures retail sales, has spotted a similar trend for AMD and Intel. During September, the last month the firm has data for, AMD had 47.6 percent of desktops, while Intel had 46.9 percent, NPD figures show. But the situation reversed itself in notebooks, where Intel garnered 68.9 percent sales, while AMD had 21.7 percent.
Almost 10 percent of notebooks used G4 processors, the NPD figures show. The G4, a PowerPC chip manufactured by FreeScale Semiconductor Inc., will be used by Apple Computer Inc.s expected PCs.
Overall, NPD Group data shows that Intel came out on top in September with 57.8 percent of sales, while AMD had 34.7 percent. NPD Group and Current Analysis use two different methods to arrive at their market share estimates.
AMDs close relationships with Gateway Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., whose eMachines, Presario and Pavilion desktops are among the most popular in retail, is one reason why the chip maker has advanced of late, said Steve Baker, an analyst with NPD Group.
"If you look at the specific processor type for desktops, the Athlon 64 was the number one" in September, Baker said. "The ability to be strong with the eMachines brand and with HP obviously helps a lot in retail."
AMD Athlon 64 chips were in 32 percent of desktops, during September, almost double that of Intels flagship, the Pentium 4. Intels Celeron D and Pentium 4 populated 20.5 and 17.8 percent of desktops, respectively, while the AMDs Sempron was in 17.4 percent of desktops, NPD figures show.
But AMD still has ground to cover in retail notebooks—Intel continued to have that segment locked up in October, the market analysis data from both firms shows—and, as a result, lost out in revenue, Current Analysis figures show.
Noteboos sales have been seeing double-digit increases in unit sales numbers as consumers upgrade to the portable machines or add second and third computers to their homes. Hence the market is an important source of both sales growth and revenue for the two chip makers. Notebooks typically sell for several hundred dollars more than desktops.
Thus, despite jumping from 52 percent of desktops in September to almost 68 percent in October and increasing its notebook share by almost five points to 31.5 percent of notebooks sold—Intel held 67.2 percent of notebook sales—AMD had a lower share of the available revenue than Intel in October, Current Analysis figures state.
AMD had just over 40 percent of the total revenue available for finished PCs, versus Intels share of 57.6 percent, representative of Intels share of notebooks.
But, although the retail market is influential—stores can use powerful advertising as well as rebates and other incentives to woo consumers to buy AMD or Intel machines—the market is fluid, and it represents only one chunk of the two chip makers larger U.S. market opportunities.
By definition, retail sales do not include consumer PCs sold direct by Dell Inc., the worlds top PC maker and one of the last Intel-only PC makers. Retails sales also dont include all of HPs and Gateways machines, as the companies also market desktops and notebooks directly. Despite serving some small businesses, retail also excludes the majority of business machines sold.
Still, AMD has also made some headway in overall x86 processor shipments of late. Shipment figures unveiled last week by Mercury Research Inc. show that AMD gained 1.6 points of market share to give it 17.8 percent of x86 processor shipments in the third quarter, up from 16.2 in the second quarter and 15.9 percent in the same quarter a year ago.
Intel, which typically has about 80 percent of shipments, ended the quarter with a smaller 80.8 percent of shipments, down from 82.3 percent in the second quarter and 82.1 percent in the third quarter of 2004, the Mercury Research figures show.
Although Current Analysis doesnt believe AMD will cede any of its recent share gains willingly, Intel could take back the leadership position at retail in November or December, Sargent said.
"I think its going to be very close," he said. "Thats the difference between this holiday season and the past. AMDs not fighting for 20 or 30 percent share; its fighting for 50 or 60 percent."