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Atom leads CPU shipments to all-time record, IDC says

Nov 9, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Microprocessor shipments rose to an all-time record level during the third quarter of 2009, according to IDC. Compared to the previous quarter, shipments of mobile PC processors such as Intel's Atom jumped 35.7 percent, while processor shipments overall were up 23 percent, the research firm says.

In its new report, "Worldwide PC Microprocessor 3Q09 Vendor Shares," IDC cites the market's excellent performance," adding that "demand for PCs — particularly mobile PCs — is healthy." The overall quarter-on-quarter growth rate of 23 percent was "double the normal growth in unit shipments for the same period," IDC added.

As it will not surprise LinuxDevices readers to hear, growth was particularly driven by what IDC terms "mobile PC processors," including the Intel Atom employed in netbooks and the bevy of low-power embedded devices we cover daily. The mobile segment increased 35.7 percent in 3Q09 compared to 2Q09, the firm said.

Shane Rau, IDC's director of research regarding semiconductors for personal computing, stated, "The market's growth has been due to shipments of inexpensive Atom processors being sold into markets like China, which is being stimulated by government incentives there." The vast majority of Atoms have been destined for netbooks, he added.

But, Rau warned, "we're still waiting for a 'gotcha,' possibly in 1Q10. The Chinese market can be very opaque — there are lots of places where inventories can hide. We have to be on the lookout for when China decides it can't consume more processors."

Though IDC's release summarizing details of its new report did not discuss the issue, a hiccup in Atom sales could potentially occur during the fourth quarter, as Intel begins to phase out the N270 (pictured at right), which is used in the majority of netbooks. New Atoms — known as the N450, D410, and D510 — will reportedly ship during the quarter, shrinking the number of chips required to built an Atom-based device down to two: the "Pineview" CPU package, plus an I/O controller called "Tiger Point." According to the Fudzilla website, the Pineview CPUs will be formally launched Jan. 3, at which time, if history is any guide, Intel will showcase prototype devices that have been created by its customers.

While the boost in Atom sales was expected, their low average selling price meant that while overall market shipments grew 23 percent, market revenue grew by only 14 percent, says IDC. Still, the firm adds, the news was good across the board: Quarter-over-quarter sales of desktop PC processors and x86 server processors grew too, by 11.4 and 12.2 percent, respectively.

Regarding vendor share, IDC's report — which apparently covers only x86 processors, not ARM CPUs, though that fact was not spelled out — says Intel was responsible for 81.1 percent of the worldwide PC processor market's unit shipments, a gain of 2.2 percent. AMD, meanwhile, is said to have earned 18.7 percent, a loss of two percent, while Via Technologies earned just .2 percent.

In 3Q 09 by form factor, Intel earned 88 percent share in the mobile PC processor segment, a gain of 1.1 percent, AMD finished with 11.9 percent, a loss of 0.7 percent, and Via earned 0.2 percent, says IDC. In the PC server/workstation processor segment, Intel finished with 90.4 percent share, a gain of 0.5 percent, and AMD earned 9.6 percent, a loss of 0.5 percent, the report added.

In the desktop PC processor segment, Intel earned 72.2 percent, a gain of two percent, and AMD earned 27.4 percent, a loss of 1.9 percent. Via's share was highest here, at 0.3 percent, IDC says.

Stated Rau, "Compared to where the market was at the beginning of 2009, PC processors have come back remarkably strong." While remaining conservative about early 2010, UDC has raised its forecast for PC processor unit shipments in 2009 to well over 300 million units, and a unit growth rate of 1.5 percent compared to 2008, he added.


IDC's report, "Worldwide PC Processor 3Q09 Vendor Shares" (IDC #220538) is said to provide worldwide market share results for PC processor vendors on an overall unit and revenue basis, as well as by form factor (desktop, mobile, and x86 server). It is available for $2,000 from the company's website, here.

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