Intel Sandy Bridge woes fail to help AMD, iSuppli says

AMD's efforts to take advantage of Intel's Sandy Bridge woes fall flat

Intel gained microprocessor revenue market share from Advanced Micro Devices during this year's first quarter despite the recent Sandy Bridge chipset woes, research firm IHS iSuppli said this week.

Intel's global microprocessor revenue share was 82.6 percent, growing from 80.6 percent in last year's first quarter, analyst firm IHS iSuppli wrote in a blog entry. AMD's revenue market share fell to 10.1 percent from 11.8 percent in 2010's first quarter.

AMD's share shrunk partly because of Intel's fast resolution of the Sandy Bridge chipset issue and flat PC shipments, which in this year's first quarter totaled 81.3 million units, declining by 0.3 percent year on year, according to iSuppli.

In late January, Intel said it had stopped shipments of the chipset used with its latest generation of Core processors based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture after it found a design flaw. The flaw, found in the 6-Series chipset code-named Cougar Point, could cause chipsets to degrade over time. Taking advantage of Intel's woes, AMD at the time launched a marketing campaign called "Ready. Willing. and Stable" to sell more chips.

Intel's error affected about 8 million chipsets, but the company moved quickly and resolved the error efficiently, said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst of compute platforms at iSuppli, in an interview.

Earlier this year, an IDC analyst said that Intel's problems with Sandy Bridge chips wouldn't help AMD gain x86-microprocessor-unit-shipment market share, partly because AMD didn't offer a chip to compete with Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, which started shipping in January. AMD delayed the launch of its latest chips for mainstream PCs code-named Llano, which were due early this year, due to a manufacturing issue. Llano chips were officially announced last month, with laptops and desktops now becoming available.

Intel's sheer volume of chip shipments also helped the company gain revenue share over AMD, Wilkins said. The research firm does not calculate total microprocessor shipments, but the decline in PC shipments hurt AMD, Wilkins said.

"Regardless of the pricing, the volume of shipments is very influential," Wilkins said. AMD has also talked about the impact of lower microprocessor prices affecting the company, Wilkins said.

The consumer market is weak, but there is a strong demand for microprocessors in the corporate market, where Intel has a stronger presence, and that helped boost Intel's microprocessor revenue, Wilkins said.

AMD is now better equipped to battle Intel with last month's launch of the microprocessor code-named Llano for mainstream PCs. The Llano chip, which combines a CPU and graphics processor on a single chip, boasts better graphics technology than Intel's Sandy Bridge chips, Wilkins said.

The Fusion chip supports Microsoft's DirectX 11 graphics technology, which provides a more realistic multimedia experience on Windows 7 PCs. Intel's Sandy Bridge microprocessors also combine CPUs and graphics processors, but support the older DirectX 10.1.

Intel and AMD both also face an immediate threat from the growing interest in tablets, which has slowed down PC shipments. ARM processors -- which go into most tablets and smartphones -- have an advantage with lower power consumption and could enter the PC market, but Intel and AMD are taking steps to lower power consumption while improving chip performance.

"AMD and Intel are not about to give up their core market business to a new entrant in the field," Wilkins said.

Responding to ARM's challenge, Intel has said it is accelerating its move to new manufacturing technologies and that it will release chips in 2013 that match ARM on power consumption. Intel in May introduced a new class of laptops called "ultrabooks," which will be less than 20 millimeters (0.8 inches) thick and priced under US$1,000. Intel has also introduced new power-efficient and faster 3D transistors for its next-generation 22-nanometer chips, which will be produced starting later this year.

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Agam Shah

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