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Intel, AMD competition heats up

Posted: 03 Jul 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PC processors  market share  45nm products  computer chipmakers 

Competition in PC processors is heating up between Intel Corp. and archrival Advanced Micro Devices. A new report suggests Intel is clawing back a sliver of market share against gains by AMD in the year to date while both companies are preparing a new volley of 45nm products.

Intel gained slightly more than a percentage point of market share in the first quarter of 2008 to command 79.7 per cent of all computer processor revenues. AMD has made gains from its 10.9 per cent share a year ago, hitting 14 per cent late last year before slipping to 13 per cent in the first quarter, according to a report issued Tuesday (July 1) by iSuppli Corp.

Global Microprocessor Revenue Market Share in Q1 2008

About half of AMD's growth in the past year came at the expense of Intel. The remainder came out of the market-share of smaller computer chipmakers, said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst of compute platforms for iSuppli.

"AMD's PC microprocessor product portfolio has become much stronger during the last year, particularly on the desktop side," said Wilkins in a prepared statement. "At the beginning of the year we saw AMD add the quad-core Phenom microprocessors to its desktop portfolio, which it has since built on with tri-core and dual-core flavours," he added.

Nathan Brookwood, principal of market watcher Insight64 is cautiously optimistic AMD could continue to make small market share gains on multiple fronts that could push the company back into profitability after a long string of quarterly losses.

"Barring an unforeseen disasters, AMD could have a reasonable second half," Brookwood said. "If it is able to increase its share in CPUs and graphics processors it may even be able to move its bottom line from red to black," he added.

Both Intel and AMD have new 45nm processors in the pipeline.

Intel is expected to announce at its Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco in August its Nehalem processors. The CPUs are Intel's second-generation 45nm chips and its first to integrate a high-speed interconnect and a memory controller, following the lead of AMD's Opteron.

In typical Intel fashion the first quad-core Nehalem chips will be focused on single-socket versions for workstations and servers. Early next year, Intel will ship versions capable of working in dual-socket systems and late in 2009 Intel will deliver chips for up to four-sockets in a system, said Brookwood.

For its part, AMD said it will release by the end of the year Shanghai, its first generation 45nm processors. They are basically a shrink of AMD's existing 65nm Barcelona quad-core chips that started shipping earlier this year after delays due to a design bug.

"Sun, HP, Dell and IBM have all refurbished their server lines with new Barcelona systems, so that chip is ramping into volume now," said Brookwood. "If AMD can ship Shanghai this year it will demonstrate its new 45nm process is healthy, and its R&D team is back in terms of execution," he added.

The company is already showing improved product execution with its latest graphics and notebook processors, Brookwood noted.

"The latest ATI 4500 graphics chips are probably the strongest competitive parts they have had against Nvidia in some time," he said.

AMD recently released its Puma notebook platform on time. Intel has faced a slight delay getting its competing Montevina notebook platform out the door.

Notebooks continue to be the fastest growing part of the otherwise maturing PC sector. The latest iSuppli report said notebook unit sales in the first quarter of 2008 rose 30 per cent. Desktop sales remained about flat, leaving overall PC sales growth at about 12 per cent, iSuppli said.

Average selling prices held constant in the first quarter, the report added, an indication the price war between AMD and Intel has cooled.

"It will be an interesting second half," said Brookwood. "AMD has been trying hard to convince everyone that the dark clouds hanging over them for most of 2007 have blown away."

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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