Intel Shortage Boosted AMD Laptop CPUs In Q4 2019: Researcher

'AMD is a stronger consideration than it has been in the past. The question is, will they be in it for the long haul like Intel is?,' one Intel partner said of his potential plans to add AMD-based laptops to his product line.


Intel's ongoing CPU shortage gave AMD a boost in laptop processor sales during the holiday 2019 shopping season, specifically in the low end of the market, an industry researcher told CRN.

Mercury Research, an Arizona-based firm that tracks processor shipments, reported that AMD's laptop processor market share by units grew 4 points to 16.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 from the same period the year before — and Intel's shortage of low-end parts was one of the two main reasons, according to Dean McCarron, principal analyst at the research firm.

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The research firm's latest AMD market share report also showed unit gains in desktop and server processors, but the laptop market was where the chipmaker made its biggest push against Intel — growing 1.5 points from the previous quarter — which was also the result of AMD's Ryzen 3000 mobile processors that launched in 2019 and contributed to its biggest year for laptops yet.

While Intel represents a majority of the x86 processor markets for laptops, desktops and servers, desktop is the only category where there is another supplier besides AMD, Via Technologies, which constitutes for roughly 0.1 percent share, according to McCarron.

But since Intel has been prioritizing higher-end processors for the client and server markets, the semiconductor giant fell short of demand for Celeron processors designed for Chromebooks and low-end laptops, specifically parts code-named Apollo Lake and Gemini Lake, McCarron said. As a result, a lesser-known AMD mobile processor called the A4-9120 saw a boost last quarter.

"There's little question that Celeron had some supply constraints," McCarron said.

Intel recently said it expects supply to improve in the second half of the year as it boosts production capacity by 25 percent in 2020.

Erik Stromquist, president of CTL, Portland, Ore.-based system builder that sells Intel-based Chromebooks to schools, said his company has been impacted by Intel's ongoing shortages and is considering AMD as a possibility for future products.

"AMD is a stronger consideration than it has been in the past," said Stromquist, who is vice president of Intel's U.S. Channel Board of Advisors.

However, Stromquist added, while Intel has created challenges for CTL, he wants to make sure AMD is capable of making long-term commitments.

"The question is, will they be in it for the long haul like Intel is? [Intel has] had their problems, but in the long run, they've been a reliable supplier," he said.

As for desktop PCs, AMD's market share grew 0.3 points to 18.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 from the previous quarter. Year over year, AMD's desktop share grew 2.4 points.

AMD's desktop market share grew slower than it did the previous quarter, but that was because the third quarter is typically when OEMs and ODMs buy a majority of their capacity for holiday sales, according to McCarron. For that reason, he thinks it was still a breakout quarter for AMD's third-generation Ryzen processors that came out with advantages over Intel's Core processors.

"The Matisse ramp has been absolutely phenomenal," he said, referring to the code name for the third-generation Ryzen processors that are based on AMD's 7-nanometer Zen 2 architecture.

On the server front, AMD's market share grew 0.2 points to 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 from the previous quarter and 1.5 points from the same period last year.

McCarron said while it takes longer for server market share to change due to the way enterprises buy products, he doesn't see anything out of the ordinary with AMD's growth trajectory. Lisa Su, AMD's CEO, recently reiterated that the company is on track to reach double-digit percentage share by mid-2020.

"They're executing a product plan and growing," McCarron said.

AMD is promising a big year in the mobile processor space for 2020 with its forthcoming Ryzen 4000 mobile series, which Su called "the best" laptop processors in the industry. More than 100 designs are promised across consumer, commercial and content creation segments — a marked improvement over the 70 designs AMD won with the Ryzen 3000 mobile series last year.

"Enterprises should be really excited because the performance that this product is bringing is going to allow their workforce to be that much more productive in their enterprise," Jason Banta, AMD's senior director of OEM client computing, said of the chipmaker's Ryzen Pro 4000 series last month.