The markets for workstations and professional graphics hardware performed admirably in the third quarter, but both show the expected signs of a cooling global economy. Jon Peddie Research (JPR) has completed its analysis of the third quarter and reports the two tightly-coupled industries saw unit growth, but at a much reduced rate from quarters’ past.
According to JPR, a total of 854.2 thousand workstations shipped in Q3 2008, accounting for about $1.8 billion in revenue. And while those numbers translate to moderately bullish year-over-year gains of 12.0% and 2.8%, respectively, they pale in comparison to the 15 to 25% gains (unit growth) the industry had been enjoying over a long string of robust quarters going back to 2005. The professional graphics hardware market experienced similar cooling, posting a unit gain of 8%, in contrast to rates it had seen recently up in the 20’s and 30’s.
As the end of 2008 approaches, the industry is seeing shifting fortunes among workstation suppliers and vendors once again. With the last two suppliers of traditional proprietary workstations — Sun and IBM — dropping their long-time UltraSPARC and Power platforms (respectively), the transition to the PC-derived workstation is now complete. IBM is now out of the market completely, while Sun (at least for now) will hang onto one Intel-based model. In today’s market, Dell and HP enjoy a near duopoly, with Lenovo and Fujitsu-Siemens remaining strong in specific pockets of the market.
On the platform side, AMD saw its workstation share decline once again. With HP’s shipments of Opteron workstations taking a dip, and with Sun, the number two provider of Opteron workstations, dropping the platform, AMD’s share took a substantial hit in the third quarter. AMD was responsible for approximately 2.1% of the processors shipped in workstations in the quarter, down from 2.9% in Q2 2008. Within the confines of the workstation market, the company remains a distant speck in the rear-view mirror of Intel, which now commands 97% of shipments.
Nvidia meanwhile continues to dominate for professional graphics hardware, shipping 90% of overall units in the third quarter, the highest share in JPR’s records. That number may end up marking Nvidia’s peak, however, as competitor ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, is ramping a new set of more competitive products that should pull back some share in coming quarters.