PORTLAND, Ore. — This year's unit shipments for processors will grow 24% over 2012 to as high as 1.5 billion, according to IHS Inc.
The fast rise is being bolstered by strong smartphone and tablet sales, which are more than compensating for a 13% slump in desktop sales and a 2% drop in notebook sales, the research firm said in its report. Of all processor segments, only PCs experienced a downturn, since even server processors experienced growth in 2013. For instance, server processor shipments rose to 4.8 million units in the second quarter from 4.6 million a year earlier.
The burgeoning mobile processor market accounted for the double-digit overall growth, IHS said. Despite their smaller price tags compared with PC processors, the overall market revenue for processors will grow by single digits in 2013.
"Popularity of mobile devices has changed the landscape of the processor market as tablets and smartphones take over from PCs among consumers," IHS analyst Gerry Xu told us. "Processors shipped to the sluggish PC market is projected to continue to decline while the mobile processors market are set to rise rapidly following the strong sales growth of smartphones and tablets."
IHS predicts that units shipped in the processor market, propelled by strong smartphone and tablet sales, was up every quarter in 2013 compared to the same quarters in 2012. (Source: IHS)
IHS's processor count includes the microprocessors powering servers and PCs, as well as the mobile processors in notebooks, tablets, and smartphones, whether they were standalone application processors or systems-on-chip that include a baseband processor.
In the hottest mobile processor markets, Xu said the traditional PC emphasis on raw speed has shifted to features relevant to mobile computing. "Instead of more computing power focus driven by PC market, the mobile processor market is focusing on features, such as power efficiency and the user experience."
According to Xu, competition among application processor vendors is fierce on both architectural features and pricse, especially now that Chinese vendors like Allwinner and Rockchip are supplying tablet processors to both white-box vendors and brands such as Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo.
"The completion among application processor vendors is heating up. Different vendors are using different approaches to differentiate from competitors," he said. "Qualcomm is positioned well in the smartphone processor market while providing a balanced overall user experience, and price completion is particularly fierce in tablet processor markets, with Chinese vendors leading in Android tablet processors."
The competition is expected to heat up even further next year, when "Intel and Mediatek both join the war with aggressive sales volume targets."
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times