Worldwide microprocessor sales are on pace to reach a record-high $61.0 billion in 2013 mostly due to strong demand for tablet computers and cellphones that connect to the Internet, but the ongoing slump in standard personal computers-including notebook PCs-is once again dragging down overall MPU growth this year. Total microprocessor sales are now expected to increase eight percent in 2013 after rising just two percent in 2012, according to a new forecast in IC Insights’ Mid-Year Update of The McClean Report 2013.
IC Insights’ mid-year forecast trims the marketshare of x86 microprocessors primarily sold by Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices for PCs and servers to 56 percent of total MPU sales in 2013 compared to the previous estimate of 58 percent. Figure 1 shows embedded microprocessors are now expected to account for 11 percent of MPU sales in 2013 (versus nine percent previously), while tablet processors are projected to be six percent of the total (compared to five percent in the original January forecast). The new forecast keeps cellphone application processors at 26 percent of total MPU sales in 2013 but lowers the marketshare of non-x86 central processing units (CPUs) in computers outside of tablets to one percent (from two percent previously).
The proliferation of multimedia cellphones and the surge in popularity of touch-screen tablet computers are fueling strong double-digit growth rates of MPU sales and unit shipments in these two systems categories. The vast majority of these systems are built with mobile processors based on 32-bit CPU architectures licensed from ARM in the U.K. Many MPU suppliers serve smartphone and tablet applications with the same processor platform design. The falloff in standard PC shipments is a major problem for Intel and AMD since they have supplied more than 95 percent of the x86-based MPUs used in personal computers since the 1980s.
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The new mid-year forecast raises tablet processor sales in 2013 to nearly $3.5 billion, which is a 54 percent increase from $2.3 billion in 2012. Cellphone application processor sales are now expected to grow 30 percent in 2013 to $16.1 billion from $12.4 billion in 2012. At the start of this year, sales of mobile processors in tablet computers and cellphones were forecast to grow 50 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Stronger unit shipment growth in mobile processors has lifted the revenue forecast in these MPU market segments.
Meanwhile, the larger market segment of MPUs used in PCs, servers, and embedded-microprocessor applications continues to contract, albeit at a slower rate than in 2012. The mid-year forecast shows sales of MPUs in PCs, servers, large computers, and embedded applications slipping by one percent to $41.4 billion in 2013 from $41.9 billion in 2012, when revenues dropped six percent. This large MPU market segment was previously forecast to rebound with sales increasing five percent, but the anticipated bounce back has been blocked by weak shipments of standard PCs, which IC Insights believes will fall by five percent in 2013 to 327 million systems.
While the mid-year outlook lowers total MPU revenues in 2013, it slightly increases the growth in microprocessor unit shipments to 10 percent this year from a projection of nine percent in the January forecast. Total MPU shipments are now expected to reach 2.15 billion devices in 2013, with tablet processors growing 62 percent to 190 million units and cellphone application processors increasing 11 percent to 1.50 billion this year. IC Insights’ microprocessor category does not include cellular radio-frequency baseband processors or stand-alone graphics processing units (GPUs), which are counted in the special-purpose logic/MPR category of the IC market.