The average selling price for computer microprocessors rose last year, as the industry saw buying trends shift from low-priced Atom processors for netbooks to chips for mainstream and high-performance laptops, a research firm reported Thursday.
Worldwide revenue in 2010 for x86 processors running desktops, laptops, and servers rose 26.7% from the previous year to $36.3 billion, while shipments grew 17.1%, IDC said. The industry average selling price for microprocessors rose 8%, approaching levels last seen in 2008.
The last quarter of 2010 did not follow the typical seasonal pattern for shipments, which normally increases from the third to the fourth quarter. Instead, quarter-to-quarter shipments dipped 0.04%. Year to year, shipments were off 0.21% in the quarter. "The fourth quarter was weak and out of synch with normal seasonal patterns in terms of unit shipments," IDC analyst Shane Rau said in a statement.
Buying patterns reflected the ongoing shift back to laptop processors from Intel's Atom chips, which dominated the netbook market in 2009. The inexpensive mini-laptops were the hottest selling PC category during the economic recession. The shift back to mainstream and high performance laptops drove the significant increase in average selling prices.
In looking at processor shipments by form factor, IDC found that shipments of mobile PC processors grew 26.2%, x86 server chips rose 28.1%, and desktop processors increased by 6.2%. Mobile PC processors in 2010 accounted for 54.1% of the market, compared to 50.2% in 2009.
Intel's market share in terms of shipments increased 0.4% in the fourth quarter to end the year with an 80.7% share, an increase of 1.1% over 2009. Advanced Micro Devices' share fell by equal amounts in the quarter and the full year. The chipmaker ended 2010 with a 19% share.
In terms of form factor, Intel ended the year with 86.4% of the mobile PC market, 93% of the server and workstation market, and 72.1% of the desktop chip market. Intel's share increased in each category, while AMD's share fell by equal amounts to 13.3%, 7%, and 27.6%, respectively.
IDC forecasts a 10.1% year-to-year increase in overall shipments of microprocessors this year. Driving the increase is the rise in corporate spending on servers and commercial desktops and PCs. This month, computer makers Dell and HP released earnings for their last fiscal quarter that showed both companies benefiting from corporate sales, while consumer sales remained weak.
IDC called its 2011 forecast "conservative," saying the shift by many consumers to tablet computers and economic concerns in Europe and the United States could have an impact on the PC processor market.