Intel Leads Resurgent Chip Market, IDC and Mercury Say

The microprocessor market is rounding back into form, according to analysts with IDC and Mercury Research. Shipments in the fourth quarter in 2009 showed seasonal increases over the previous quarter, and significant growth over the fourth quarter in 2008. In addition, shipments of server processors also grew in the fourth quarter, an indication that businesses may be starting to buy systems again.

The global microprocessor market ended up a difficult 2009 with a strong fourth quarter, according to two industry research firms.

The numbers from IDC and Mercury Research indicate that the recovery in the IT industry is continuing and that OEMs are expecting increased user demand for PCs and corporate growth in spending on servers in 2010, according to the analysts.

In figures released Jan. 26, IDC said processor shipments in the fourth quarter for 2009 jumped 31.3 percent over the same period in 2008, and grew seasonally over the third quarter in 2009.

For all of 2009, PC processor shipments grew 2.5 percent, but revenue fell 7.1 percent, to $28.6 billion.

"Compared to 3Q09, the modest rise in shipments in 4Q09 indicates that the market is returning to normal seasonal patterns," IDC analyst Shane Rau said in a statement. "Compared to 4Q08, the huge rise in shipments indicates that the market has put the recession behind it. Both comparisons indicate that the PC industry anticipates improvement in PC end demand in 2010."

Driving the market improvement were shipments of mobile processors-such as Intel's Atom chip-and server processors, according to IDC. Shipments for mobile chips-used in such devices as netbooks-grew 11.7 percent over the third quarter, while shipments of x86 processors jumped 14.1 percent over the third quarter. Desktop processors grew 4.8 percent over the third quarter.

Rau said the sequential rise in client chips in both the mainstream and high-end sectors was an indication of the influence of new processors like Intel's Core i5 and Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon II that were shipping for the holiday season.

"What's interesting there is that consumers were there to buy systems based on them and that OEMs were investing in them for future builds," he said. "At the same time, the sequential rise in server processors indicates that server OEMs are starting to see corporations come off the sidelines."

Intel and AMD have both rolled out new PC chips this month, and both are promising a host of new server processors in the first half of this year.

In the fourth quarter, Intel held an 80.5 percent market share-a loss of 0.6 percent-while AMD gained 0.7 percent, rising to a 19.4 percent share. Via Technologies had a 0.2 percent share.

For all of 2009, Intel's market share was 79.7 percent, a drop of 0.7 percent, while AMD's share of 20.1 percent was a 0.8 percent increase. Via's market share was 0.3 percent.

According to Dean McCarron of Mercury Research, the fourth quarter was a record-breaker. For the first time, chip makers shipped more than 100 million PC processors for the quarter, and mobile processor shipments exceeded 50 million, McCarron said in a report released Jan. 26.

"Though the industry recovery has been well under way throughout 2009, server and desktop CPUs still have not reached the record levels seen in mid-2008, prior to the collapse in processor demand," he said in a statement.

The processor market grew 9 percent in the fourth quarter over the third quarter, which Mercury Research said mirrored traditional seasonal patterns. Year over year, shipments in the fourth quarter grew almost 34 percent.

Server shipments grew the most, followed by mobile PC chips.

McCarron said the microprocessor market looks healthy moving into the first quarter of 2010, with traditional seasonal demand-including the usual downturn in the first quarter-and no signs of inventory problems.

Mercury Research had Intel with an 81 percent market share, followed by AMD with 18.3 percent and Via with 0.7 percent.