Workstation, GPU Manufacturers Gained Footing in 2013

With growth coming in at a 3 percent, 2013 was the first year since 2007 that the global workstation market behaved more according to historical norms.

Last year proved to be a good one for the tandem markets for workstations and professional graphics processing units (GPUs), according to a report from technology and market research firm Jon Peddie Research (JPR).

The industry shipped approximately 971,600 workstations worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2013, essentially flat (down 0.2 percent) from the third quarter of 2013 and up 4 percent from the same quarter the year prior.

That figure nearly eclipsed the record one million units the market set back in 2011. In the fourth quarter, the market continued onward and upward, holding on to the substantial gains of the previous two quarters, closing out a healthy 2013.

The professional graphics market, composed almost exclusively of the Nvidia and AMD duopoly, shipped around 1.3 million workstation-caliber GPUs in the third quarter, including both mobile modules and deskside add-in cards. Volume represented a year-over-year gain of 10.3 percent, the report found.

For the full calendar year 2013, about 4.9 million professional-branded graphics hardware units were sold (including mobile units), representing 9.6 percent growth relative to 2012.

The report suggested perhaps the highlight of 2013 was the strength of application service providers (ASPs), putting revenue at even healthier levels in 2013 than unit volume.

With growth coming in at a modest but healthy 3 percent (units), 2013 was the first year since 2007 that the global workstation market behaved more according to historical norms, finally removed from the tumultuous period of 2008-2012, said JPR senior analyst and Workstation Report author Alex Herrera.

"Like virtually every other market, workstations suffered through the global recession at the tail end of 2008 and through 2009," Herrera said in a statement. "Conversely, 2010 and 2011 saw uncharacteristically hot - but unsustainable - growth as the market rebounded. 2012 appeared to pay for that exuberance, seeing a modest decline while the markets appeared to 'digest' previous years' indulgence."

The market shares of the four Tier 1 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) proved generally stable in the fourth quarter of 2013. With 39.9 percent of units sold, Hewlett-Packard (HP) continued to dominate the workstation market, with second-place Dell at 32.5 percent. Lenovo and Fujitsu shipped 12.9 percent and 3.9 percent of units, respectively, to round out the top four OEMs.

"We may very well look back at 2013 as the year the workstation and PC markets went their separate ways. For years, as workstations adopted PC technology, and as both platforms were viewed as primary - and indispensable - computing devices, the two markets tended to behave as mirror images,” Herrera continued. “But as alternative computing devices like tablets and smartphones have taken hold to challenge PCs, especially in consumer markets, 2013 changed that paradigm--such devices pose no serious threat to workstations, and the two markets are no longer marching in unison."