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Bad news for manufacturers of microprocessors: shipments of central processing units (CPUs) in the fourth quarter of 2010 decreased both sequentially and annually, according to International Data Corp. (IDC). While the whole year was good for shipments of chips, the third and the fourth quarters demonstrated an alarming trend.

Microprocessor Market Down 0.4% Sequentially, 0.21% Annually

Worldwide PC microprocessor shipment growth in the fourth calendar quarter of 2010 (Q4 2010) slowed notably, compared to both Q3 2010 (-.04% quarter-over-quarter) and to Q4 2009 (-0.21% year-over-year), according IDC. For the full year 2010, however, worldwide PC microprocessor unit shipments grew 17.1%, while revenue increased 26.7% to $36.3 billion.

Despite of slowing down unit growth, expensive microprocessors started to gain popularity. In 2010, the industry average selling price (ASP) for microprocessors rose 8%, approaching the levels last seen in 2008. While a strange year in terms of shipment patterns, 2010 was also a year of recovery.

"The fourth quarter was weak and out of synch with normal seasonal patterns in terms of unit shipments. The first half of the year turned out to be the better half of the year. However, looking back at the whole year 2010, it's clear that the ongoing shift to mobile processors, combined with a shift back towards high-performance mobile processors, as opposed to Atom processors for netbooks, drove a significant rise in overall processor average selling prices," said Shane Rau, director of semiconductors: personal computing research at IDC.

Market Shifts to Mobile PCs

Looking at processor shipments by form factor, during the year 2010, it becomes clear that the market is shifting towards mobile computers:

  • Desktop processor unit shipments grew 6.2%;
  • Mobile PC processor unit shipments grew 26.2% and Mobile PC processors, which represented 50.2% of all PC processors shipped in 2009, represented 54.1% of processors in 2010;
  • x86 server processor unit shipments grew 28.1%

AMD Loses CPU Market Share in Q4 and in 2010

In Q4 2010, Intel earned 80.8% unit market share, a gain of 0.4%, while AMD earned 18.9%, a loss of 0.4%, whereas Via Technologies Technologies earned 0.3%. In the full year 2010, Intel earned 80.7% unit market share, a gain of 1.1%, AMD earned 19.0%, a loss of 1.1%, and Via Technologies Technologies earned 0.3%.

By form factors the rankings in Q4 2010 were the following:

  • In the desktop PC processor segment, Intel shipped 72.5% of chips, a gain of 0.7%, and AMD earned 27.3% of the market, a loss of 0.5%.
  • Intel got 86.1% share in the mobile PC processor segment, a gain of 0.2%, AMD finished with 13.5%, a loss of 0.2%, and Via Technologies earned less than 0.1%.
  • In the PC server/workstation processor segment, Intel supplied 94.2% of chips, a gain of 0.5% and AMD shipped5.8% of microprocessors, a loss of 0.5%.

The rankings for the whole calendar 2010 look as follows:

  • In the desktop PC processor segment, Intel commanded 72.1%, a gain of 1.1%, AMD earned 27.6%, a loss of 1.2%, and Via Technologies grabbed 0.4%.
  • Intel earned 86.4% share in the mobile PC processor segment, a loss of 0.4%, AMD finished with 13.3%, a gain of 0.4%, and Via Technologies commanded 0.3% of the market.
  • In the PC server/workstation processor segment, Intel finished with 93.0% market share, a gain of 3.1% and AMD earned 7.0%, a loss of 3.1%.

CPU Market Growth Forecasted

IDC's forecast for year-over-year growth in PC (mobile, desktop, x86 server) microprocessor unit shipments is 10.1% in 2011.

"Corporate spending continues to drive spending on server platforms and commercial clients. However, the affects of emerging devices, like media tablets, and economic concerns in Europe and the U.S., lead us to be conservative in our overall outlook," said Mr. Rau.

Tags: AMD, , Intel, Via Technologies, IDC

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