Llano, Bobcat Helped AMD Nip Market Share From Intel During Q2

AMD's second-quarter results showed a small decline in sales revenue, but according to Mercury Research, a drop in ASPs year-on-year hid the smaller company's market share gains. AMD's total share of the x86 industry stood at 19.4 percent in Q2, up from 17.8 percent a year ago. Intel is estimated to have held 79.9 percent in Q2 2011, down from 81.3 percent last year.

Dean McCarron of Mercury Research attributes AMD's gains to a mixture of low pricing on its older products and strong demand for the newer Fusion parts. The Llano APU has gained ground rapidly in mobile, which has long been a weak spot for AMD; historically, even when the company had strong desktop and workstation/server hardware, it has lagged behind Santa Clara in battery life and overall performance.

Seifert's comments during the company's conference call made it clear that AMD had lost ground in servers while setting records both in terms of mobile market revenue and the total number of mobile processors shipped. Given that AMD's refreshes through Q2 had focused near-exclusively on mobile products, it's safe to bet that the majority of the company's market gains came from that quarter. If that's true, it raises the question of whether or not strong Llano/Zacate performance explains what Intel characterized as weak demand for netbooks.

The upside to being AMD, in this instance, is that any gains in market share are good gains in market share. After years of being confined to the fringes of the mobile space, Llano has demonstrated excellent battery life and good (if not always top-tier) performance. When Intel unveiled Atom, analysts were uneasy over the idea that the smaller chip might steal profit and sales from the higher-end mobile Core 2 Duo products. When a company is starting from virtually nothing, no one asks if Zacate might steal sales from those other chips the company isn't selling.

Loveable Llano's lithography limned in lime, orange, blue, and green

The one thing AMD can't afford to do is rest on its laurels. Those of who have paid attention to Intel's long-range plans will recall that the company is targeting a 15W mainstream mobile threshold for its future products, as opposed to the 35W 'mainstream' TDP it has used in years past. That means consumers will see future Core i3/i5/i7-derived mobile hardware slugging it out in thermal envelopes where Llano and Zacate might otherwise have encountered ultra-low-end mainstream parts and the highest range of Atom netbooks.

AMD's mobile performance should remain strong through the end of the year, though Intel's updated 32nm Atom could challenge Ontario/Zacate. To date, AMD's Bobcat-derived chips have maintained a solid 15-20 percent performance advantage over Atom. Desktop and server sales will depend on Bulldozer--and AMD isn't saying much yet about how it expects the new processor to perform.