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Inventory refreshes boost x86 CPU sales, IDC says

Aug 7, 2009 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

In the second quarter of 2009, x86 processor shipments increased 10 percent compared to the previous quarter, according to IDC. The market research firm calls the results “unusually positive” but cautioned that OEMs' inventory refreshes were the driver, not increased demand for PCs.

Worldwide unit shipments of x86 processors declined seven percent year-over-year during 2Q09, but rose 10.1 percent compared to 1Q09, IDC says. The resulting revenue, while down 15 percent year-over-year, increased by 7.9 percent compared to the first quarter. This compared favorably with an 11 percent decrease from 4Q08 to 1Q09, the firm added.

As ever, Intel not only dominated the overall x86 market when it comes to market share, but also grew faster than its rivals. Intel's processor shipments increased 12.5 percent from 1Q09 to 2Q09, while AMD's also grew, but only by 1.8 percent, says IDC.

Atom shipments grow

When it reported healthy second quarter earnings last month, Intel said its earnings from the netbook- and embedded oriented Atom processor were $362 million, a 65 percent increase over the first quarter. IDC, addressing shipments rather than earnings, says the number of Atoms sold during the second quarter was up 34 percent over the first quarter.

Interestingly, despite the undoubted popularity of netbooks, Intel said when it reported 1Q09 earnings in April that revenue from Atom CPUs was down 27 percent from 4Q08. At the time, the chipmaker attributed the decline to manufacturers working through existing inventory.

IDC analyst Shane Rau concurs, writing that "mini-notebook OEMs, having held off buying Atom processors in 1Q09 and depleted their inventories, began refreshing those inventories in 2Q09." Atoms represented 25 percent of Intel's mobile PC processor shipments in 2Q09 and 8.1 percent of the company's mobile PC processor revenues during the quarter, IDC estimates.

Rau adds that the percentage of Intel's revenue that was earned in the Asia/Pacific region grew from 51 percent in 1Q09 to 55 percent in 2Q09. IDC attributes this shift "to Intel driving Atom processors into ODMs who manufacture the systems, particularly in China and Taiwan."

Overall market shares

As ever, Intel dominated the x86 market, regardless of form factor. In 2Q09, it had 78.9 percent unit market share (up 1.6 percent), while AMD had 20.6 percent (down 1.6 percent), and Via Technologies had 0.5 percent, IDC says.

In the mobile PC processor segment, Intel earned 86.9 percent unit share (up 2.6 percent), AMD had 12.6 percent (down 2.4 percent), and Via Technologies had 0.5 percent share, says IDC. In the PC server/workstation processor segment, Intel had 89.9 percent unit share (up 0.5 percent), and AMD earned 10.1 percent (a loss of 0.5 percent). Finally, in the desktop PC processor segment, Intel and AMD held more or less steady, the former at 70.2 percent unit share, and the latter at 29.4 percent, the market research firm says.


While shipments of processors may have been up due to declining inventories, the PC processor market is still in weak condition, according to IDC.

"Going forward," writes Rau, "IDC believes that ODMs and OEMs have balanced out their inventories and so we can't rely on inventory replenishment to drive market improvements. Instead, we can only rely on what actual end demand really is. That means we have to be cautious not to be over-exuberant that, say, the traditional back-to-school PC buying season will materialize into a bullish second half. It won't."

IDC said its forthcoming report, Worldwide PC Processor 2Q09 Vendor Shares, will 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 PC server). Pricing for the report was not released, however.

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