Intel Claws Back Desktop PC and Notebook Market Share From AMD, First Time in Three Years

Source: Tom's Hardware added 03rd Feb 2021

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The Mercury Research CPU market share results are in for the fourth quarter of 2020, with the headline news being that Intel has clawed back share from AMD in the desktop PC market for the first time in three years. Intel also stopped its slide in notebook PCs, gaining share for the first time since we began collecting data for that segment in early 2018. AMD also lost share in the overall x86 market during the quarter but notched a solid gain for the year. Meanwhile, AMD continued to make slow but steady gains in the server market.

It’s noteworthy that the fourth quarter of 2020 was anything but typical: The PC market continued its pandemic-fueled surge, seeing its fastest growth in a decade. For example, while AMD lost share in the overall x86 market (less IoT) during the quarter, Mercury Research pegs the overall x86 market growth rate at an explosive 20.1%. 

Intel obviously captured more of that growth than AMD, but it’s important to remember that a slight loss of share in the midst of an explosive growth environment doesn’t equate to declining sales – AMD grew its processor revenue by 50% last year and posted record financial results for the year. 

Shortages have plagued AMD due to ongoing supply chain issues. Given the lack of AMD products on shelves, the company is obviously selling all of the silicon it can punch out, signaling strong demand. AMD expects to see ‘tightness’ throughout the first half of 2021 until added production capacity comes online, meaning we could see a limited supply of AMD’s PC and console chips until the middle of the year (you can see AMD CEO Lisa Su’s take on the situation in our recent interview). 

Those shortages led to a scarcity of AMD’s chips during the critical holiday shopping season in the fourth quarter, while Intel’s chips were widely available and often selling at a discount. That obviously helped Intel recoup some share. During its recent earnings call, Intel also cited improving supply of lower-end processors, like those destined for Chromebooks, as a contributing factor. Intel CEO Bob Swan noted the company increased its PC CPU units by 33% during the fourth quarter. 

Intel has also expanded its chip production by leaps and bounds over the last several years as it recovered from its own shortage of production capacity. The advantages of its IDM model are on clear display during the pandemic – the company’s tight control of its supply chain and production facilities have allowed it to better weather disruptions. That’s an important consideration as the company has come under intense criticism that it should spin off its fabs while it weighs how much of its own production it should outsource (you can see Bob Swan’s take on the situation in our recent interview).

That said, given the dynamic nature of the market, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions on several of the categories below without more information. Dean McCarron of Mercury Research will provide us with detailed breakdowns for each segment in the morning, and we’ll add his analysis as soon as it is available. For now, here’s our analysis of the raw numbers. 

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4Q20 3Q20 2Q20 1Q20 4Q19 3Q19 2Q19 1Q2019 4Q18 3Q18 2Q18 1Q18 4Q17 3Q17 2Q17 1Q17 4Q16 3Q16
AMD Desktop Unit Share 19.3% 20.1% 19.2% 18.6% 18.3% 18% 17.1% 17.1% 15.8% 13% 12.3% 12.2% 12.0% 10.9% 11.1% 11.4% 9.9% 9.1%
Quarter over Quarter / Year over Year (pp) -0.8 / +1.0 +0.9 / +2.1 +0.6 / +2.1 +0.3 / +1.5 +0.3 / +2.4 +0.9 / +5 Flat / +4.8 +1.3 / +4.9 +2.8 / +3.8 +0.7 / +2.1 +0.1 / +1.2 +0.2 / +0.8 +1.1 / +2.1 -0.2 / +1.8 -0.3 / – +1.5 / – +0.8 / –

AMD recently introduced its Ryzen 5000 processors that take the lead in every meaningful metric from Intel’s Comet Lake chips, but a lack of supply could have hindered the company’s gains in this fast-growing segment. Intel’s Rocket Lake lands in Q1 2021, which could present more competition for AMD’s Ryzen 5000.

While AMD lost some share here during the quarter, it gained 1 percentage point for the year. However, AMD recently noted that its Ryzen 5000 chips doubled the launch sales of any other previous Ryzen generation, and annual processor revenue grew 50% even though the PC market only grew 13%. It’s logical to expect that AMD will prioritize the production of these higher-margin desktop processors to maximize its profitability. 

AMD has noted that its shortages are most acute in the lower end of the PC market, while Intel says it has improved its own shipments of small-core (lower-end) CPUs.   

4Q20 3Q20 2Q20 1Q20 Q419 3Q19 2Q19 1Q2019 4Q18 3Q18 2Q18
AMD Mobile Unit Share 19% 20.2% 19.9% 17.1% 16.2% 14.7% 14.1% 13.1% 12.2% 10.9% 8.8%
Quarter over Quarter / Year over Year (pp) -1.2 / +2.8 +0.3 / +5.5 +2.9 / +5.8 +0.9 / +3.2 +1.5 / +4.0 +0.7 / +3.8 +1.0 / +5.3 +0.9 / ?

Recently, this has been AMD’s fastest-growing market. The mobile segment comprises roughly 60% of the client processor market, meaning any gains are very important in terms of overall volume and revenue. 

Intel has cited its increasing penetration into the lower-end of the market, like Chromebooks, which likely contributed to its strong gains here. Again, AMD has said that its shortages are most pressing in the lower-end of the market. 

Notably, AMD remained in the black here for the year, with a 2.8 percentage point gain. AMD recently launched its Ryzen 5000 Mobile processors, which bring the powerful Zen 3 microarchitecture to laptops for the first time. AMD has 50% more designs coming to market than the previous-gen Ryzen 4000 lineup, but supply could be tight. 

AMD bases its server share projections on IDC’s forecasts but only accounts for the single- and dual-socket market, which eliminates four-socket (and beyond) servers, networking infrastructure and Xeon D’s (edge). As such, Mercury’s numbers differ from the numbers cited by AMD, which predict a higher market share. Here is AMD’s comment on the matter: “Mercury Research captures all x86 server class processors in their server unit estimate, regardless of device (server, network or storage), whereas the estimated 1P [single-socket] and 2P [two-socket] TAM [Total Addressable Market] provided by IDC only includes traditional servers.”

4Q20 3Q20 2Q20 1Q20 4Q19 3Q19 2Q19 1Q2019 4Q18 3Q18 2Q18 4Q17
AMD Server Unit Share 7.1% 6.6% 5.8% 5.1% 4.5% 4.3% 3.4% 2.9% 3.2% 1.6% 1.4% 0.8%
Quarter over Quarter / Year over Year (pp) +0.5 / +2.6 +0.8 / +2.3 +0.7 / +2.4 +0.6 / 2.2 +0.2 / +1.4 +0.9 / +2.7 +0.5 / +2.0 -0.3 / – +1.6 / 2.4 +0.2 / –

AMD continues to chew away server share from Intel at a steady rate. These gains come on the cusp of the company’s highly-anticipated EPYC Milan launch in March. It’s logical to expect that some customers may have paused purchases on current-gen EPYC Rome processors in anticipation of the looming Milan launch, and the resultant pent up demand could increase AMD’s server penetration next quarter. Also, given the importance of this lucrative segment, AMD will likely prioritize server chip production. 

4Q20 3Q20 2Q20 1Q20 4Q19 3Q19 2Q19 4Q18 3Q18
AMD Overall x86 21.7% 22.4% 18.3% 14.8% 15.5% 14.6% 13.9% 12.3% 10.6%
Overall PP Change QoQ / YoY -0.7 / +6.2 +4.1 / +6.3 +3.5 / +1.2 (+3.7?) -0.7 / ? +0.9 / +3.2 +0.7 / +4 ? ?

The overall x86 market grew at an explosive 20.1% rate during the quarter, reflecting that a growing TAM benefits both players. AMD lost a minor amount of overall share during the quarter, but gained 6.2 percentage points for the year. 

We’ll add McCarron’s segment analysis as soon as it is available. 

Read the full article at Tom's Hardware

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