Intel Continues to Dominate Stable x86 Chip Market: Mercury

Intel held 81 percent of the x86 processor space in the first quarter, while AMD had 18.2 percent, both of which showed little change over the same period in 2010.

Intel continues to dominate an x86 processor market that is seeing little fluctuation, according to industry analyst firm Mercury Research.

According to the numbers released April 25, Intel in the fourth quarter held 81 percent of the x86 chip market, which covers both PC and server processors. That compares with the 81.2 percent market share Intel had during the same period last year, and the 81 percent it garnered in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Advanced Micro Devices in the first quarter held 18.2 percent market share, essentially flat over the 18.1 percent in the first quarter 2010. Via Technologies' share was 0.9 percent, up a tick over 0.7 percent during the same period last year.

Overall, the market numbers for the first quarter were solid, according to Mercury analyst Dean McCarron. However, the numbers were somewhat skewed by the fact that this year, the first quarter entailed 14 weeks; traditionally there are 13 weeks in the quarter, McCarron said in a statement.

For example, x86 chip revenue in the quarter grew 1.1 percent, which he said was above the seasonal average of an 8.6 decline. However, when adjusted for a 13-week quarter, the revenue was down 6.2 percent, which is still better than the seasonal average.

In addition, unit shipments in the first quarter were up 7.2 percent over the same period last year, but down 0.4 percent when adjusted for a 13-week quarter.

"This is the third quarter in a row of significantly below normal year-on-year growth," McCarron said in a release. "However, the decline in the yearly comparable growth appears to have stopped this quarter, hinting at a possible resumption of on-year growth in the coming quarters of 2011."

Desktop and mobile client chips saw what he called "modest but positive growth," with desktop processors growing a bit faster. Shipments of x86 processors for servers declined, McCarron said.

For the seventh consecutive quarter, the average selling price for x86 chips grew in the first quarter, hitting $101 per 1,000 units shipped. That marked the highest average selling price since the first quarter of 2008.

"Leading indicators are indicating seasonally normal growth for the second quarter," McCarron said in the release. "However, due to the 14-week first quarter, seasonal growth will result in comparably flat growth expectations for the second quarter."

The first quarter was a busy one for both Intel and AMD. At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in January, both chip makers released their latest PC processors. Intel launched its 2nd Generation Core "Sandy Bridge" chips, while AMD rolled out the first of its Fusion APUs (accelerated processing units). Both the Sandy Bridge chips and Fusion APUs include discrete-level graphics and CPUs on the same piece of silicon.

Intel also unveiled new server chips, including the high-end x86 Xeon E7 processors, which offer up to 10 cores.