IDC: 13 Percent of PCs To Run ARM Chips by 2015

IDC on Thursday announced worldwide PC microprocessor shipment data, with upbeat implications for the PC market this year.

The research firm found that worldwide shipments of PC microprocessors grew in the first quarter of calendar-year 2011. Shipments were 7.4 percent above last year's first-quarter result.

On a year-over-year basis, IDC predicts that unit microprocessor shipments for 2011 will show a 10.3 percent increase over last year's result. That 10.3 figure roughly corresponds with Gartner's prediction of a 10.5 percent increase, year over year.

Revenue for the worldwide PC microprocessor market will grow 17. 6 percent in that same year-over-year time period to reach nearly $43 billion, IDC predicted.

IDC's and Gartner's first-quarter results seem to conflict with Microsoft's descriptions of the PC market in an earnings report for its fiscal third quarter, which ended on March 31, 2011 (equivalent to the first-quarter calendar year period). Microsoft indicated in that report that the PC market had declined between one percent and three percent during that period. The discrepancy is unexplained, but it may be due to microprocessor component shipping dates not coinciding with PC shipping dates. Microsoft also noted in its fiscal report that Intel didn't include a decline in netbook sales in reporting its estimates.

IDC indicated in an announcement that it has begun tracking PC microprocessor shipments by architecture, such as x86 and ARM, for the first time. The research firm now predicts that ARM will grab 13 percent of the PC microprocessor market by 2015.

IDC's ARM prediction might be taking into account a deal struck by Microsoft with ARM Holdings, as announced at the January Computer Electronics Show. Microsoft is currently building a "Windows Next" operating system to run on ARM system-on-chip (SoC) architectures, as well as on SoC designs from Intel and AMD. However, PCs running Windows Next (sometimes called "Windows 8") might not appear until late 2012 or even 2013, according to some estimates.

The benefit of running Windows on ARM chips involves obtaining longer battery times for mobile devices. Intel already indicated new thinking in that direction by announcing a new 22-nanometer tri-gate chip design on Wednesday that Intel says can cut power consumption in half. Forrester analyst Richard Fichera explained in a blog post that the power savings is 50 percent over the current 32-nm "Sandy Bridge" design (also known as Intel's second-generation Core chips). Intel expects to release the new 22-nm components sometime in 2012, according to Fichera.

Intel is boasting that its new SoC designs will "offer performance per Watt equal to or superior to that of ARM processors," Fichera explained. Intel also plans to contest the tablet chipset space with its Atom "Oak Trail" low-power chips, which are expected this year.

IDC's data also indicated some progress by Intel and AMD in shipping their new microprocessor products. Shane Rau, IDC's director of PC semiconductor research, noted that Intel's Sandy Bridge and AMD's Fusion microprocessors both include integrated graphics processors (IGPs).

"Both Intel and AMD grew unit shipments sequentially, which indicates some decent strength in their new platforms," Rau said in a released statement. "Due to the first full quarter shipping their Sandy Bridge and Fusion microprocessors with integrated graphics processors (IGP), processors with IGP grew to slightly over 50% of market shipments for the first time."

IDC's data derive from two reports. One report, "Worldwide PC Microprocessor 1Q11 Vendor Shares," is currently available. The second report, "Worldwide PC Microprocessor 2011-2015 Market Forecast," will be forthcoming. The latter report will include data on architectures used (x86 and ARM).

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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