AMD Passed by Qualcomm, Samsung on MPU List

Driven by smartphones and tablets, Qualcomm and Samsung rank No. 2 and No. 3 on IC Insights’ list of microprocessor vendors, while AMD drops to fourth.

Advanced Micro Devices continues to try to grow its product portfolio, but the company is still being dogged by the contracting worldwide PC market.

Most recently, market research firm IC Insights reported that in 2012, AMD fell from second to fourth place among the world’s top microprocessor vendors, overtaken by Qualcomm and Samsung Electronics, both of which make chips based on the ARM architecture for the mobile device market. AMD had been solidly in second place behind Intel since the 1990s, the analysts said in the May 20 report.

According to IC Insights’ survey, Intel, with $36.9 billion in sales, continued to hold a commanding 65.3 percent share of $56.5 billion microprocessor market, followed by Qualcomm’s 9.4 percent and Samsung’s 8.2 percent. AMD’s market share fell to 6.4 percent.

The numbers are indicative of the rapidly changing computing environment, where consumers and business users alike increasingly are opting for smartphones and tablets over notebooks and desktop PCs. In IC Insights’ list of the 10 microprocessor vendors for 2012, only Intel and AMD offer x86-based chips that run in such systems as PCs and mainstream servers. The other chip makers—including Nvidia and Texas Instruments—make mobile processors based on the ARM architecture.

Qualcomm, with $5.3 billion in sales, is the top vendor of ARM-based mobile chips. Samsung makes chips for its own tablets and smartphones, but 83 percent of its $4.6 billion in sales were from its work in making SoCs for Apple’s popular iPhone and iPad tablets, according to IC Insights.

AMD’s market share was as high as 9.6 percent in 2010, but has steadily fallen since, with $3.6 billion in revenues. Like other tech giants such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, AMD is looking to expand its reach to reduce its reliance on the PC market. AMD's Rory Read and other executives are targeting such markets as ultramobile devices, dense and energy-efficient servers, embedded devices and semi-custom chips.

AMD is looking to such new accelerated processing units (APUs) as “Richland” for notebooks and tablets, “Temash” for Windows 8-based tablets and hybrid devices and “Kabinin" for low-cost PCs, convertibles and hybrids.

Despite the falling PC sales worldwide, AMD’s Read told analysts and journalists in an April 18 conference call that the PC market—where more than 360 million units are shipped every year—will continue to be important to his company.

"The PC market will remain an important business for AMD for years to come," Read said. "The PC is far from dead."