Intel 'back in the driver's seat'

AMD needs Hammer

It's not been a good year for CPU makers, but for AMD it has been particularly poor, losing market share in 2002 to the traditional leader Intel.

This year, Intel will account for 81 per cent of desktop processor sales, an "overwhelming lead" which it will maintain through to 2003, In-Stat/MDR forecasts. Worse, for AMD, Athlon XP will not be a"ble to keep pace on speed(with Pentium 4) and will be pushed into competition with Celeron, much as the K6-2 was", the analyst firm says in its latest report on Intel's desktop processor business.

"In the first half of 2002, Intel's Pentium 4 left AMD's Athlon XP in the dust on clock speed, and it will continue to do so as long as Intel is able to convince end users they need a processor that runs at multiple-gigahertz speeds."

This doesn't sound like In-stat/MDR is too convinced about AMD's success in touting performance rating as a more meaningful guide for consumers than clock speed.

But there's an upside. And it's called Hammer, AMD's 64-bit entry. Despite the Intel threat, "AMD's Hammer processor could prove to be a tough competitor in 2003".

Says Kevin Krewell, general manager at In-Stat/MDR: "Once the Hammer family begins to ship in earnest in 1H03, AMD should be able to respond with its own differentiated processor. Until then, Intel is in the driver's seat."

AMD had a good couple of years following the introduction of the Athlon, leaping ahead on performance, while Intel muddled its way through the product transition to Pentium 4. At one point it claimed a market share of close to 30 per cent of processor sales, and Athlon sales held up well in the early stages of the PC doldrum . But in recent quarters it has been hit hard - by the downturn - and renewed competitive vigour from Intel.

Here are some other findings from Instat-MDR. On the technology front.

  • Significant clock increases and the introduction of hyperthreading into mainstream desktop PCs will enable Intel to meet Moore's Law, which implies a doubling of processor performance every 18-24 months. Intel's clock speed ramp will slow in 2004 as "power dissipation concerns in desktop PCs begin to create barrier to higher clock frequencies". Hyperthreading will help Intel to ensure that it keeps the faith with Moore's Law.
  • Intel will continue to mainstream on DDR SDRAM support and integrated graphics for 2002 and 1H03. DDR-II support - with integrated graphics - will debut in Prescot chipsets in 2H03. The RDRAM-supporting 850e chipset has been "relegated to a high-end niche product".

And now for the market forecasts.

  • Instat/MDR predicts puny global PC growth of 1 per cent in 2002, itself following the disastrous year of 2001. But the analyst firm is very bullish, predicting an rebound of 13 per cent in 2003. This is driven by new products - Intel's Banias and Prescoot processors and AMD's Hammer family, and by pent-up demand. In other words, corporates will simply have to change their old PCs.
  • Desktop ASPs fell below $200 in Q1 as "the aging Pentium III architecture stopped at 1GHz and the Pentium 4 was at only the beginning of its ramp. The ASP never rebounded after that and will likely not return to $200 levels. ASPs will rebound in 2003 (from its lows) based on a modest economic recovery, double-digit unit growth, and the appeal of new technology such as Hyper-Threading". ®

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