A slowdown in notebook and desktop personal computer purchases coupled with strong growth in smartphones and tablet PCs knocked Advanced Micro Devices down to fourth place in microprocessor sales in 2012 from second, where AMD had been perched behind Intel since the 1990s, according to a new ranking of chip suppliers by IC Insights. At the same time, Qualcomm and Samsung are up in the rankings.
The new top 10 MPU list shows most leading suppliers of mobile processors based on ARM technology moving higher in the ranking while PC-dependent x86 microprocessor companies – Intel and AMD – continued to lose marketshare in 2012. Among the leading microprocessing units (MPUs) vendors in the top 10, only Intel and fourth-place AMD sell central processors built with x86 micro-architectures for standard notebook and desktop PCs running Windows operating system from Microsoft Corp. The remaining top 10 suppliers develop and sell mobile application processors with RISC processor cores licensed from ARM in the U.K.
Apple, Samsung and Qualcomm Leave AMD Behind
Moving ahead of AMD in the 2012 microprocessor ranking were Qualcomm, the cellphone IC sales leader that’s been primarily successful in selling cellphone application processors, and Samsung, which in addition to its own ARM-based processors is the sole foundry source for Apple’s custom-designed system-on-chips for its iPad tablets and iPhone smartphones.
Sales of Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon system-on-chip (SoC) processors increased 28% in 2012 to $5.3 billion, increasing its processor market share to 9.4% and moving it to second place in the ranking from third in 2011.
Samsung (with Apple’s SoC foundry business) moved to third place in the 2012 ranking from fourth in 2011 with a 78% increase in MPU sales. About 83% of Samsung’s $4.7 billion in MPU revenues in 2012 came from Apple’s processors, which essentially means that Apple is ahead of AMD when it comes to microprocessors sales.
Intel Sells Nearly Two Times More Chips Than All Rivals Combined
Intel remained the dominant leader in microprocessor sales but its share slipped to 65.3% of the microprocessor market compared to 67.3% in 2011 and 68.6% in 2010, based on IC Insights’ analysis of suppliers.
AMD’s share of microprocessor sales fell to 6.4% in 2012 compared to 8.2% in 2011 and 9.6% in 2010, according to the new MPU ranking, which was recently released to subscribers of IC Insights. Slowing sales of legacy PCs caused AMD to announce in late 2012 that it would be the first MPU supplier sell microprocessors built with x86 and ARM architectures (initially for server computers) starting in 2014.
Microprocessor Remains the Largest Semiconductor Product Category
The $56.5 billion microprocessor market continued to be the largest single semiconductor product category in 2012, accounting for 22% of total IC sales. However, microprocessor sales growth slowed to 2% in 2012 following a strong 19% increase in 2011. IC Insights is forecasting a 10% increase in total CPU sales in 2013 to $62.0 billion.
During 2012, strong increases in mobile application processors used in cellphones and tablet PCs offset a 6% decline in MPU sales for desktop and notebook PCs, servers, and embedded-processor applications. Between 2012 and 2017, total MPU sales are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12%, reaching $97.7 billion in the final year of the forecast.
Starting with the 2013 CPU sales report, IC Insights expanded its coverage in the microprocessor market category to include system-on-chip processors used in cellular-phone handsets and touch-screen tablet PCs. Previously, these SoC processors were counted in the special-purpose logic/MPR category of the IC market – with cellphone application processors being part of the wireless communications segment and tablet processors in the computer and peripherals product segment.
Prior to being reclassified, cellphone application MPUs represented about 32% of wireless communications special-purpose logic sales and 17% of unit shipments in 2011, based on IC Insights’ previous market data. Tablet MPUs accounted for about 7% of computer/peripheral special-purpose logic sales and 2% of units in 2011, when these mobile processors were part of this IC segment.
With smartphone and tablet PC system shipments increasing by strong annual rates, IC Insights believes the inclusion of mobile application processors into the MPU category has become necessary to fully comprehend market and technology trends impacting this important IC product segment. SoC application processors in cellphones accounted for 22% of worldwide MPU sales in 2012 compared to 14% in 2010, while tablet microprocessors represented 4% of the total in 2012 versus a little under 1% in 2010, which was the year Apple launched its first iPad products and dramatically changed portable computing in the consumer PC market.