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Graphics company NVIDIA Corp. recently said it once again boosted its share in the high-end and mainstream DirectX 9.0 graphics processing units markets, following earlier reports claiming that NVIDIA began to win market share across all segments back from arch-rival ATI Technologies and some smaller players.

“NVIDIA holds 67% of the Microsoft DirectX 9.0 performance GPU market share and 53% of the overall DirectX 9.0 GPU market share,” the company said citing the most recent study from Mercury Research, a market tracking agency, that covers Q4 2004. A quarter earlier – in Q3 2004 – NVIDIA commanded 64% and 51% of the high-end and mainstream DirectX 9.0 markets respectively.

NVIDIA Grows in High-End, but is it High-End?

While the mainstream DirectX 9.0 market indicates relatively slow expansion of NVIDIA, the same cannot be said about the high-end DX9 shipments. Mercury’s current estimates on DX9 and DX9c accelerators differentiate value and performance by transistor count, with devices at and about 100 million transistors being considered high end. Since enthusiasts and media typically consider pricing and performance as two main measurements of a products’ market positioning, Mercury’s estimations may be regarded as not precisely reflecting reality.

Given that during the fourth quarter NVIDIA ramped up production of its GeForce 6600 GT (NV43), GeForce 6600 (NV43) and delivered a number of GeForce 6200 (NV43) graphics processing units that contain more than 100 million transistors, and are count as high-end GPUs, those chips are primarily targeted at performance-mainstream, mainstream and entry-level customers. While ATI also ships its RADEON X700 PRO/XT as well as RADEON 9800-series products for performance-mainstream market, its mainstream and entry-level products, such as RADEON X600- and 9600-series contain less than 100 million transistors.

Still, NVIDIA’s high-end positioning should be attributed to the success of the GeForce 6800-series graphics processing units. As recent polls show, customers are gaining credibility with the GeForce 6 family of visual processing units, a year ago the majority would reject NVIDIA GeForce products.

ATI and Intel Still Market Share Leaders

Intel Corp. maintained its leadership position in the graphics market in the fourth quarter of 2004. ATI Technologies managed to stay flat with the previous quarter on the level of 27%, while NVIDIA Corp. managed to increase its share by 3 points to 18%. Other providers, namely S3 Graphics, XGI Technologies, Matrox, etc., stayed relatively flat with the previous quarters. Overall market share reflects companies’ success in various market segments, including discrete and integrated graphics solutions for desktops and notebooks.

Sources familiar with the recent Mercury Research numbers said ATI supplied 51% of desktop standalone visual processing units, not very significantly above the number of the rival NVIDIA Copr., and 72% of mobile graphics chips. While the recent quarters demonstrated NVIDIA gaining over ATI in the high-end due to lower-than-desired availability of the RADEON X800-series. But ATI believes it will tackle the problem in future with its new RADEON X800 and RADEON X800 XL graphics processors made using 110nm process technology in future.

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