Desktop GPU Sales Show Surprising Strength

Microprocessor vendors were not the only semiconductor vendors to enjoy a bang-up third quarter. Graphics processor units, or GPU sales were also excellent, according to numbers from Jon Peddie Research.

Traditionally, the third quarter has decent growth during back-to-school and Christmas ramp ups, but this year sales saw their biggest sequential jump over the previous quarter in years. Third-quarter sales rose 20.2 percent from the second quarter, the best improvement since 2002 when sales increased 18.6 percent.

Total unit shipments for the quarter were 97.85 million units, up 18.2 percent from third quarter of 2006. While the tide was rising, AMD’s boat didn’t get as good a lift as Intel’s and Nvidia’s. Intel shipped 37.2 million parts for 38 percent of the market compared to 33.1 million units and 34 percent for Nvidia and 18.6 million units and 19.1 percent for AMD.

Desktop graphics processor sales accounted for 72 million units and mobile chips moved 25.8 million units. Nvidia led desktop GPU sales with 37.8 percent of the market to Intel’s 33.5 percent, while AMD had 17.5 percent. In the mobile market, Intel remained dominant with 50.9 percent, AMD was No. 2 with 23.4 percent and Nvidia came in right behind at 22.8 percent.

Desktop sales spiked in the third quarter, surging from 68.5 percent of total sales in the year-ago quarter to 73.6 percent this time around. Mobile sales actually declined, bucking the prevailing trend for the last few years.

“The most astounding thing about the quarter is that the mobile market grew less than it has in any of the previous 10 quarters and desktop grew at a greater rate than it has in years,” said Jon Peddie, president of JPR. “It just screwed up all the models and projections, and it’s not channel stuffing either. Nvidia has parts on allocation,” he said, meaning it can’t satisfy meet surprisingly high customer demand.

Peddie attributes this statistical anomaly to the Vista effect finally kicking in. He projects more than 97.5 million PCs were sold in the third quarter, and a large number of them had Vista loaded—even with a number of customers opting for XP instead.

Peddie also said there is a growing market of desktop computers that use GPUs as computational machines, like Nvidia’s Tesla systems, because the GPU is nothing but a massive floating point engine. Eventually that market segment should be large enough to track.

Looking at the fourth quarter, he predicts a huge rebound in the mobile space thanks to the holiday shopping season, late back-to-school sales and AMD picking up some market share with its new RV670 graphics processor—assuming manufacturing problems don’t bedevil it again.

Penryn could spur upgrades, he said, “If Intel can get the message out on Penryn’s terrific power capability. The world is really sensitized to reducing power consumption. Penryn really is a cool chip, no pun intended. It will definitely have a positive impact.”

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