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Workstation market remains robust

Research finds vendors' fortunes are changing

The string of good news continues for vendors serving the workstation markets, with the second quarter of 2006 yielding 22.9 per cent growth in units and 15.9 per cent for revenue.

Jon Peddie Research (JPR) of Tiberon, Calif., has completed its quarterly market tabulations for both workstations and professional graphics as part of the latest installment of its Workstation Report series.

Workstation vendors shipped roughly 619,000 workstations in the quarter, accounting for about US$1.5 billion in revenue. Results for the closely-coupled professional graphics market were even stronger, with units up 37.3 per cent to 869,000 and revenue up 15.4 per cent to US$284.1 million.

Market share for Dell and Intel Xeon had been on the decline, but according to Q2 figures that trend may be reversing.

Dell held on to its top position as workstation vendor, with a 41 per cent market share (units). And Intel stayed dominant as the primary platform supplier, represented in roughly 92 per cent of machines shipped. Both market leaders had been losing ground to competitors in previous quarters, with Dell trailed closely by HP, and Intel dogged by AMD and its Opteron processor.

But the fortunes of the big two may have begun to turn around in the second quarter. In the first half of ’06, Intel released its long-awaited Woodcrest (Xeon brand) processor and Glidewell platform, finally presenting a strong answer to AMD’s Opteron, especially in higher-end, multi-socket applications.

Alex Herrera, JPR senior analyst and author of the workstation report, said a good chunk of Opteron’s growth in workstations had been coming at Intel’s expense. The worst looks to be over for Intel, as the new generation Xeon platform appears to be holding onto market share. Of course, where Intel’s fortunes go, Dell’s often follow. The workstation volume leader’s share also kicked back up a bit in Q2, the first increase in many quarters.

AMD’s Opteron is by no means stalling in the marketplace, however, benefiting from the continued migration away from legacy, proprietary RISC platforms. Opteron is now shipping in nearly four per cent of workstations, with Sun and HP accounting for the vast majority of systems shipped.

The overall numbers for Q2 show the fundamental strength of the professional graphics, but JPR’s findings also uncover many subtle undercurrents, one of which is a significant shift in how dollars are being spent.

Bucking the typical tendency for customers over time to expect to pay less and get more, professional buyers are forking over more dollars to get their hands on a slew of new high (over US$950) and ultra-high (over $1,500) products introduced recently. Where the high and ultra-high segments comprised only about a quarter of total add-in card revenue two years ago, in Q2’06 they accounted for roughly one half.

Nvidia is both the instigator and primary beneficiary of this trend. Nvidia shipped 72 per cent of all units, with ATI second at 24.4 per cent. But more significantly thanks to its attention to the high-end segments, the company has grown its share of revenue to a commanding 82.7 per cent.