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Who takes the cake in netbook processor arena?

Posted: 08 Dec 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:processor? netbook? Intel Atom?

Spotlight is still on the broad netbook and mobile Internet device (MID) processor market.

Intel, Freescale, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Via and others have separately made announcements in the arena. All vendors are having mixed results in terms of competing against Intel in the processor-based netbook and MID market. This market includes ultrasmall PCs, souped-up smart phones and other products.

Even Intel is seeing mixed results in the fledging arena. So, who are the winners and losers thus far? At present, it appears that all chip vendors are both winnersand losers.

The volumes are high for Intel's x86-based Atom processor, but the margins are lower. The design activity is high for the non-Intel crowd, but it's unclear if those potential ARM-based systems will ramp in volumes. Many will not see the light of day.

The other problem? Scan the dyslexicon of products targeting the territory between laptops and mobile phonese-books, mini-notebooks, MID, netbooks, smartbooks, smart phones, tablet PCs and tomorrow's cloudbooksand you understand why consumers are confused.

Here's what analysts said about how the chipmakers are fairing in the arena:

In Q3 by form factor, Intel earned 88 percent share in the mobile PC processor segment, a gain of 1.1 percent. AMD finished with 11.9 percent, a loss of 0.7 percent and Via earned 0.2 percent, according to IDC. Mobile PC processors, which include Intel's Atom processors designed for mini-notebook PCs, increased 35.7 percent in Q3 09, compared to Q2 09, according to IDC.

"The story about 3Q '09 leads with Atom processors being sold in mini-notebooks (netbooks) manufactured and sold in China," said Shane Rau, an analyst with IDC, in a recent report. "While Atom processors led the PC processor market to reach record unit shipments, on the revenue side, their low average selling price led to notable price erosion, more than 7 percent."

"We believe the Atom is opening up many opportunities for Intel in the netbook, smartbook, embedded and handheld sectors," said Craig Berger, an analyst with FBR.

"That said, we remain concerned that cannibalization, from notebook to netbook, from desktop to nettop, and from much higher CPU price points, will mostly or fully offset other Atom-driven benefits. In the netbook/nettop space, we believe systems will be split between Intel Architecture (IA) chips and Arm-based chips. While Intel has some strong unit opportunities, cannibalization concerns are paramount, particularly as Nvidia's Ion chipset or other better-performing co-processors could make Atom-based machines good enough for the masses," Berger said.

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