Lisa Su, AMD

AMD loses ground in GPU market

Pictured: AMD CEO Lisa Su. Image: AMD

25 August 2015

It’s no secret that AMD has struggled against its much bigger CPU competitor Intel, but for the longest time, it was able to hold its own against its chief competitor in graphics, Nvidia. That, however, is changing for the worse.

For some time, the trend line has around a 60/40 split in favour of Nvidia with bumps up and down, and Intel eating a little of the market share as each generation of Core processors sports a better GPU.

Starting late last year, when Nvidia introduced its Maxwell architecture and the GTX 980 and GTX 970, things started going south for AMD because it didn’t have anything new to compete with the high-end Nvidia cards. Games, gamers and monitors are all moving to 4K resolution and Nvidia had the best offering by a wide margin.

The result, as the charts show, is a 20 percentage point market share loss in less than a year. The quarterly earnings aren’t pretty, either. For the three months ended 28 June 2014 CPU and GPU sales totaled $828 million. For the quarter ending 27 June 2015 CPU and GPU sales were just $379 million.

This could reflect people abandoning the Radeon because it had been a popular GPU for Bitcoin mining and when people switched to FPGAs, Radeon sales came to a halt and a ton of used hardware hit the market.

It’s only been in the past two months that AMD had a reasonably new offering, the Radeon 300 series based on the Fiji architecture. That’s only a tweak of the Radeon 200 line. After that, AMD has the Arctic Islands generation due next year, along with the impressive-on-paper Zen CPU architecture. So it has something in the pipeline to catch up.

“AMD is suffering from being stretched too thin competing with two tightly focused powerhouses with less than half the resources in either segment,” is how one industry insider put it to me.

AMD did well in the discrete notebook space but its APUs missed the low-power mobile run up. When it finally gets to 14nm will be fighting entrenched suppliers like Qualcomm, Mediatek, Intel and its partners. That bunch ran Nvidia out of the mobile market, so AMD’s chances are even slimmer.


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