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Advanced Micro Devices made sizable gains in market share against Intel in the x86 processor market, according to year-end data from Mercury Research. In the fourth quarter of 2021, it had a record 25.6% share of the market for processors using the x86 architecture.
AMD has been gaining share (in the combined PC, game console, and internet of things x86 chip market) against Intel for 11 quarters now thanks to the acceptance of its Zen architecture, which enables AMD chips to process more instructions per clock cycle. But in Q4 Intel took back some mobile market share.
Every segment of the x86 (Intel-compatible) processor market grew in the fourth quarter of 2021. Mobile central processing unit (CPU) shipments were up weakly, however the remaining segments all had strong growth. The overall market is down on-year, however, largely due to the collapse in entry-level mobile processor volume that occurred in mid-2021.
For the full PC processor market, which includes Arm devices for Chromebooks and Apple’s M1-based Macs, the overall market grew at a healthy rate. The x86 market grew 16% in 2021, said Dean McCarron, president of Mercury Research, in an email to VentureBeat.
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“While this is nominally a share discussion, I would mention that the total X86 market set a record for both units and revenue, as did the server and mobile CPU markets among others,” McCarron said. “Moving beyond just x86 clients and servers, the total market size, including x86 internet of things and system-on-chip products such as those used for gaming consoles, and ARM-based Chromebooks and Apple’s M1-based Macs, was an even 500 million units in 2021.”
He added, “Without ARM the x86 figure alone is approximately 471 million units. Revenue for just x86 processors was $74 billion for the year, up 10.7 percent from 2020’s $66.6 billion.”
For all-inclusive share, which counts not only PC client CPUs and servers but also IoT and semi-custom products used in items like gaming consoles, AMD gained share in the fourth quarter, largely due to a very large increase in gaming console shipments (AMD’s chips are used in the Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X/S).
As a result of that increase, AMD reached a new record high for overall share — 25.6% — in the fourth quarter of 2021, beating the prior record of 25.3% set fifteen years ago in the fourth quarter of 2006.
All-inclusive share on an annual basis (not in the tables) was 76.7% for Intel and 23.3% for AMD, was a 3.6 point move up for AMD and down for Intel compared to 2020 results of 80.3% for Intel and 19.6% for AMD. Annual share was
also a new record high for AMD, beating the 2006 record of 22.9% percent.
In Q4, Intel partially recovered from the downturn it experienced in mobile CPUs in the third quarter, and the company had very strong growth in desktop shipments. This resulted in Intel’s growth in desktop and mobile CPUs outpacing AMD’s, with Intel gaining share in mobile CPUs, desktop CPUs, and overall client.
AMD continued to expand its server shipments more quickly than Intel — both suppliers experienced good growth in the fourth quarter — resulting in the 11th consecutive quarter of server CPU share gain for AMD.
Mercury’s estimate for ARM PC client share (including Chromebooks and Apple’s M1 based Macs with X86 desktop and mobile CPUs in the total client size estimate) is 9.5%, up from 8.3% last quarter and nearly triple the 3.4% from a year ago. Apple had very strong growth in the quarter, so the gains were driven by higher M1 unit volumes rather than Chromebook ARM processors.
As an aside, VIA/Zhaoxin share rounds to zero in all segments. It’s highly probable Zhaoxin’s share is growing, but Mercury has extremely limited visibility into this small segment of the CPU business.
Asked about Apple’s impact in switching to Arm-based chips with the M1, McCarron said, “Had Apple not moved to M1, yes, the X86 market would be larger — I wouldn’t exactly spin that as the x86 market having lower growth, though. Growth in 2021 wasn’t meaningfully lower than what we saw in 2020, as both were in the mid-teens, far higher than average — the five year average for annual x86 growth prior to 2020 was -4.1% per year.
AMD’s most recent low for annual share was 12.7% in 2015. The most recent low since the prior record high quarter in 2006 was 11.6% in the first quarter of 2016, and their record low was 5.5% in the second quarter of 1997.
Most of the decline that happened for Intel in Q3 was due to mobile Celeron. The increase in Q4 shipments was due to non-Celeron mobile products, primarily the Tiger Lake core mobile parts, or the i5/i7 1100 series. In desktop, it was a mix of Comet Lake and Rocket Lake parts that ramped higher.