Intel Leads a Steady x86 Processor Market, Headed for a Record Q2

Intel, benefiting from enterprise buyers, gained 0.2 percent off AMD during an otherwise steady first quarter for the x86 processor market, according to Mercury Research. Things will heat up during the second quarter, however, which is expected to see record mobile unit shipments.

Intel continued to dominate a steady x86 processor market during the first quarter of 2010, according to data from Mercury Research.
Intel held 81.2 percent of the market during the quarter, up ever so slightly from its 81.0 percent the quarter before-though more significantly from its 78.3 percent a year earlier.
The 0.2 percent difference was perhaps more meaningful to Advanced Micro Devices, which lost the points to Intel and so finished the first quarter with 18.1 percent of the market. The loss, however, was inconsequential, Mercury explained in the April 23 report.
"AMD is more dependent on consumer sales, which tend to decline sharply after the holidays. The slight share loss does not signal any significant shifts in market position between AMD and Intel," wrote analyst Dean McCarron.
Third-ranking Via finished the quarter with 0.7 percent of the market, which was exactly the same as the quarter before, though down slightly from its 0.8 percent a year earlier.
Mercury reported that desktop and server CPUs were more or less tied, with similar rates of decline, while mobile CPU units declined on more of a percentage basis. The average selling price, however, increased during the quarter, for the second quarter in a row.
"The Q1 market ASP was higher than any time in 2009, and matched the pricing seen immediately before the late 2008 market collapse," wrote McCarron. "A key driver to higher prices was a richer mix of high-end mobile processors, particularly Intel's mobile i3 and i5 CPUs, which grew explosively in the first quarter of 2010."
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 7, Intel announced new Core i3, i5 and i7 series processors, which Fujitsu, among others, was quick to take advantage of, introducing two single-socket servers with Intel's 32-nanometer "Clarkdale" processors.
On March 30, Intel additionally rolled out four- to eight-core Xeon 7500 "Nehalem EX" processors, which are said to change the way the industry views x86 computing, by offering new, more powerful options to high-end customers. That came just weeks after Intel released its six-core Xeon 5600 "Westmere EP" processors for more mainstream servers.
AMD also had a number of processor releases in the first quarter, including its eight- to 12-core Opteron 6000 "Magny-Cours" server chips. AMD is readying the release of its four- to six-core "Lisbon" Opteron server chips in the second quarter.
Heading into the second quarter, Mercury reports seeing signs of better-than-average growth, particularly in the mobile processor market.
"We anticipate higher unit shipments overall in the quarter of 2010," wrote McCarron, "and record mobile unit shipments."