In a year of major changes for the global microprocessor industry, one thing remained the same: leading suppliers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices in 2010 maintained their customary ranks in the market, research from IT analytics firm IHS iSuppli indicated. Intel finished the year with 81.0 percent share of global microprocessor revenue, up a scant 0.4 percentage points from 80.6 percent in 2009, allowing it to maintain leadership. Meanwhile, AMD ended the year with 11.4 percent share, down 0.8 points from 12.2 percent in 2009, keeping it in second place.
The company's research also showed global microprocessor market revenue snapped back smartly in 2010 following the recession of 2009. Revenue in 2010 surged 25 percent to $40 billion, compared to a six percent decline in 2009. While the microprocessor market traditionally has been dominated by sales of Intel and AMD X86 products to the PC market, the year 2010 was marked by the rise of a new platform: the media tablet, led by Apple's iPad-which employed a non-X86 device at its heart designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung Electronics.
IHS said it believes unit shipments of media tablets soared to 17.4 million in 2010, up from zero in 2009, with levels expected to grow to more than 240 million units in 2015. As a result, semiconductor revenue from this market segment represent a "significant opportunity" not just for suppliers such as Samsung, which is already present in the fledgling tablet market, but also for PC processor incumbents AMD and Intel.
"The year 2010 was a period of major transitions in the microprocessor market, with suppliers facing a raft of changes, ranging from the new competitive threat posed by media tablets to the robust post-recession recovery, to the technology revolution spurred by the rise of graphics-enabled microprocessors (GEMs)," said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst of compute platforms for IHS. "Despite these developments, the competitive state of affairs remained very much the same two-horse race it has been for more than 20 years, with Intel firmly in the lead and AMD a distant second."
Wilkins pointed out that while the static market share situation is emblematic of the mature conditions in the PC segment of the microprocessor industry, the competitive situation remained intense in 2010, with the two companies fighting for every dollar possible from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Fourth-quarter market data revealed no significant changes in worldwide microprocessor market shares as well. Intel accounted for 81.5 percent of global microprocessor revenue during the period, gaining 0.5 percent of share compared to a year ago in the fourth quarter of 2009. On a sequential basis, Intel gained 0.7 percent of share from the 80.8 percent it held in the third quarter of 2010.
For both sequential and year-over comparisons, AMD lost market share, with the greatest loss occurring relative to the fourth quarter of 2009. In the fourth quarter of 2010, AMD accounted for 10.9 percent of the worldwide microprocessor market by revenue, down from 11.4 percent in the third quarter of 2010, and down from 12.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Meanwhile, PC microprocessor technology underwent a fundamental change in 2010, with GEMs becoming a major portion of total sales in 2010. GEMs represented more than one-third of total microprocessor shipments for notebook and desktop PCs alike in 2010. Both Intel and AMD announced GEM products targeting the mainstream notebook and desktop segments in 2010, as they raced with each other to keep on top of this new technology trend.