'Sharp rise' in PC processor shipments for Q3

Worldwide PC microprocessor unit shipments in the third quarter of 2009 rose substantially and to all-time record levels for a single quarter, according to analyst firm IDC.

PC processor unit shipments in 3Q09 rose 23 per cent compared to 2Q09, growth that is approximately double the normal growth in unit shipments for the same period. In terms of revenue, the PC processor market grew more than 14 per cent quarter over quarter to $7.4bn.

Looking at market performance by PC form factor, mobile PC processors continue to drive growth. Mobile PC processors, which include Intel’s Atom processors designed for netbooks, increased 35.7 per cent in 3Q09 compared to 2Q09. Desktop PC processors grew 11.4 per cent quarter over quarter and x86 server processors grew 12.2 per cent quarter over quarter.

“The story about 3Q09 leads with Atom processors being sold in mini-notebooks, aka netbooks, manufactured and sold in China,” said Shane Rau, director of semiconductors for personal computing research at IDC. “While Atom processors led the PC processor market to reach record unit shipments, on the revenue side, their low average selling price led to notable price erosion: more than 7 per cent. As a result, while market shipments rose 23.0 per cent compared to 2Q09, market revenue grew less, 14.1 per cent compared to 2Q09.

“Most meaningful about 3Q09 is that, since PC processor shipments overall just slightly exceeded shipments in 3Q08—which was itself a record quarter at the time—we know that the processor market is recovering,” Rau continued.

In 3Q09, Intel earned 81.1 per cent share of the worldwide PC processor market’s unit shipments, a gain in share of 2.2 per cent, while AMD earned 18.7 per cent, a loss of 2.0 per cent. VIA Technologies earned 0.2 per cent.

Due to the market’s turnaround, IDC 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 per cent compared to 2008. “Compared to where the market was at the beginning of 2009, PC processors have come back remarkably strong,” said Rau.

Despite raising its forecast for 2009, IDC is conservative about early 2010. Rau said: “While it’s clear our concerns about the second half of the year weren’t necessary, we’re still watching for a ‘gotcha’, possibly in 1Q10. 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 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. Meanwhile, the US market is still hamstrung by housing foreclosures and rising job losses.”

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