IHS: Smartphones and tablets driving strong demand for processors

Demand for smartphones and tablets is expected to drive worldwide processor shipments to 1.50 billion units by the end of this year, up from 1.21 billion in 2012.

Smartphones and tablets are more than making up for flagging PC sales, and are driving growth in the processor demand.

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According to IHS, worldwide processor shipments are forecast to reach 1.50 billion units by the end of this year, up from 1.21 billion in 2012. While third-quarter numbers have yet to be finalized, and fourth-quarter figures reflect best estimates at this point, IHS says that each quarter this year is expected to have enjoyed a significant rise in volume compared to the same periods in 2012.

The first half of the year was particular strong, resulting in an increase of 27 percent over the first quarter compared to the year-ago quarter, and an increase of 24 percent over the second quarter. Growth for the third quarter is expected to be 19 percent, followed by fourth-quarter growth of 24 percent.

Shipment estimates for processors
(Source: IHS)

"The overall processor market would not be so healthy if it weren’t for smartphones and tablets," said Gerry Xu, senior analyst, processor research for IHS. "The PC market that traditionally drove the growth of the microprocessor segment has slowed. The new mobile platforms have more than picked up the slack, delivering both large volumes and fast growth for processor shipments."

Processor shipments for tablets are particularly healthy, up from 38.3 million units in the second quarter of 2012 to 53.5 million for the same period this year, which is equivalent to growth of 40 percent. Growth in processor shipments to smartphones was only slightly less impressive, up 38 percent from 147.9 million to 204.2 million.

The winners aren't the companies you'd expect them to be though. The rise of low-cost tablets made in China boosted shipments for Chinese processor vendors such as Allwinner and Rockchip.

Of the four major segments that use processors, only category to see a decline in demand was the PC category. During the second quarter of 2013, processor shipments for PCs totalled 84.3 million units, down from 89.9 million for the year-ago quarter.

While Intel is working hard to position itself to grab more of the mobile market, it does leave me wondering where this leaves AMD. The company might be sitting pretty having scored a place inside both Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, but the company has next to no presence in the mobile market. Will AMD also need to make a foray into the mobile market, or is it content with its share of the diminishing PC market along with the console market?

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