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Tablet, cell phone processors negate PC MPU slump

15 Aug 2013

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According to the latest report from IC Insights, global microprocessor sales are expected to reach $61 billion in 2013 as a result of the strong demand for tablet computers and cell phones that connect to the Internet. However, the persistent decline in standard PCs such as notebooks is once again dragging the overall MPU growth this year. Total microprocessor sales are seen to climb eight per cent in 2013 after rising just two per cent in 2012, added the market analytics company.

IC Insights' mid-year forecast trims the market share of x86 microprocessors primarily sold by Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices for PCs and servers to 56 per cent of total MPU sales in 2013 compared to the previous estimate of 58 per cent. Embedded microprocessors are expected to account for 11 per cent of MPU sales in 2013 (versus nine per cent previously), while tablet processors are projected to be six per cent of the total (compared to five per cent in the original January forecast). The latest forecast keeps cell phone application processors at 26 per cent of total MPU sales in 2013 but lowers the market share of non-x86 central processing units (CPUs) in computers outside of tablets to one per cent (from two per cent previously).

The proliferation of multimedia cell phones and the surge in popularity of touch-screen tablet computers are fuelling strong double-digit growth rates of MPU sales and unit shipments in these two systems categories. The vast majority of these systems are built with mobile processors based on 32bit CPU architectures licensed from ARM in the U.K. Many MPU suppliers serve smartphone and tablet applications with the same processor platform design. The falloff in standard PC shipments is a major problem for Intel and AMD since they have supplied more than 95 per cent of the x86-based MPUs used in personal computers since the 1980s.

Tablets, smartphones lift PC MPU sales

The mid-year forecast raises tablet processor sales in 2013 to nearly $3.5 billion, which is a 54 per cent increase from $2.3 billion in 2012. Cell Phone application processor sales are expected to grow 30 per cent in 2013 to $16.1 billion from $12.4 billion in 2012. At the start of this year, sales of mobile processors in tablet computers and cell phones were forecast to grow 50 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively. Stronger unit shipment growth in mobile processors has lifted the revenue forecast in these MPU market segments.

Meanwhile, the larger market segment of MPUs used in PCs, servers and embedded-microprocessor applications continues to contract, albeit at a slower rate than in 2012. The mid-year forecast shows sales of MPUs in PCs, servers, large computers and embedded applications slipping by one per cent to $41.4 billion in 2013 from $41.9 billion in 2012, when revenues dropped six per cent. This large MPU market segment was previously forecast to rebound with sales increasing five per cent, but the anticipated bounce back has been blocked by weak shipments of standard PCs, which IC Insights believes will fall by five per cent in 2013 to 327 million systems.

While the mid-year outlook lowers total MPU revenues in 2013, it slightly increases the growth in microprocessor unit shipments to 10 per cent this year from a projection of nine per cent in the January forecast. Total MPU shipments are expected to reach 2.15 billion devices in 2013, with tablet processors growing 62 per cent to 190 million units and cell phone application processors increasing 11 per cent to 1.50 billion this year.

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