Intel, AMD Run Tight Race in Quarterly Chip Shipments

Intel gained in the second quarter while AMD, which had a notable showing in servers, slipped in overall x86 chip shipments.

Despite a notable gain in server processor shipments, AMD slipped slightly in overall x86 chip shipments during the second quarter.

Intel Corp. gained seven-tenths of a point of share during the second quarter, while Advanced Micro Devices Inc. shipments fell by an equal amount, reversing the companies first quarter positions, data made public Monday by Mercury Research Inc. shows.

Intel, which has historically garnered around 80 percent of x86 chip shipments, had 82.3 percent of shipments in the second quarter. AMD had 16.2 percent of shipments. The companies had 81.6 percent and 16.9 percent of shipments, respectively, during the first quarter. Chipmakers such as VIA Technologies Inc. take up the rest of the x86 chip shipments.

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However, Microsoft Corp. drove the change in share during the second quarter as opposed to shifts in buying patterns among businesses or consumers, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Microsoft, whose Xbox is nearing the end of its life, purchased a significant number of Intel chips for the game console during the quarter, McCarron said. Intel, which got a boost from the action, also mentioned the bump along with its second-quarter earnings.

The Xbox, which has a processor based on an older Celeron chip, has had little affect on x86 shipments over the last several quarters. However, McCarron said his belief is that Microsoft bought a large number—potentially millions—of chips during the second quarter in order to keep the current Xbox in production until its successor, the Xbox 360, expected in November, is ready to go.

"If you take that out, net is market share probably didnt change much," he said.

AMD raised some eyebrows earlier this month when Mercury Research figures, a subset of its overall x86 shipment measurements, showed AMD had passed 10 percent of x86 server processor shipments for the first time. It was a major accomplishment for AMD, particularly because the segment has long been dominated by Intel.

But, overall, "Intel bounced back a little bit," McCarron said. "AMD was down a little bit. Really the AMD story was it had a lot of server unit [shipments]. So the story went that AMD had a revenue increase [as server chips tend to cost more than desktop or notebook chips] and units were down seasonally."

Meanwhile, whether or not AMD can continue its second-quarter momentum in servers remains to be seen. It depends largely on the continued support of its AMD Opteron processor customers, which include IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsystems Inc., and the businesses that they sell to, McCarron said.

Despite slipping from the first quarter to the second quarter, AMD still managed a step forward on a year-over-year basis. During the second quarter of 2004, Intel held 82.9 percent of shipments versus AMDs 15.1 percent, McCarron said.

Thus AMDs shipments increased 1.1 points, while Intels fell six-tenths of a point from the same time period a year ago.

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