The adoption of computer processors with graphics capabilities continues to grow rapidly, with 2011 being the biggest year yet for the technology, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.
In a March 16 report, the analysts at IHS iSuppli said GEMs (graphics-enabled microprocessors) will find their way into half of the notebooks and 45 percent of the desktop PCs this year, with worldwide penetration in the notebook space jumping 11 percent over 2010. GEMs will be in about 115 million for the predicted 230 million notebooks shipped this year.
Desktop penetration of the graphics-enabled chips-such as Intel's 2nd Generation Core "Sandy Bridge" processors and Advanced Micro Devices' Fusion APUs (accelerated processing units)-will right 9 percentage points, with GEM-powered desktops hitting more than 63 million units in 2011. IHS iSuppli analysts said desktops sales are seeing an upswing, thanks to corporate demand for new systems to replace aging ones.
The numbers will only go up, the analysts said. By 2014, 83 percent of all notebooks and 76 percent of all desktops shipped worldwide will come with graphics-enabled processors. Chips that offer both graphics and CPUs on the same piece of silicon are increasing in popularity as the use of video and multimedia applications increases.
"With GEMs capable of generating the total graphic output of a PC, no additional graphics processor or add-in graphics card is needed," Peter Lin, principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS iSuppli, said in a statement. "Computers today are serving up ever-richer multimedia experiences, so the graphics capabilities of PCs have become more important, driving the rising penetration of GEMs."
Officials with both Intel and AMD hope this trend continues. AMD has been working in this direction since buying graphics card-maker ATI in 2006 for $5.4 billion. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, AMD officials unveiled the first of their long-awaited Fusion APUs, which combines the CPU and graphics technology on the same die.
"We believe that AMD Fusion processors are, quite simply, the greatest advancement in processing since the introduction of the x86 architecture more than 40 years ago," Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager for AMD's Products Group, said in a statement at the time. "In one major step, we enable users to experience [high-definition] everywhere as well as personal supercomputing capabilities in notebooks that can deliver all-day battery life. It's a new category, a new approach, and opens up exciting new experiences for consumers."
The day before the AMD Fusion debut, Intel introduced the first of its Sandy Bridge processors, which also integrate the CPU and GPU.
"Basically, we are very much putting together all that is required on a single piece of silicon," David "Dadi" Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, said during a speech at the Intel Developer Forum in September 2010.
IHS iSuppli analysts noted that Via Technologies offers GEM products for embedded and industrial operations.
However, while GEMs are rising in popularity, they still are unable to offer the same level of performance as discrete graphics cards, which IHS iSuppli analysts said will continue to be the popular choice for leading-edge graphics applications, such as gaming. The graphics-enable chips will be used for mainstream PC applications, which means that the rise in the use of GEMs will lead to some degradation of the discrete graphics market, the impact will not be significant in the short- to medium-term, they said.