In what can only be described as a win for NVIDIA, the research firm operated by Jon Peddie is reporting that even with a very strong increase in overall GPU sales in 2009, AMD was unable to capitalize on a great product release with the Radeon 5000-series to take marketshare away from NVIDIA. To quote from the report:

AMD gained in the notebook integrated segment, but lost some market share in discrete in both the desktop and notebook segments due to constraints in 40nm supply. Nvidia picked up a little share overall. Nvidia’s increases came primarily in desktop discretes, while slipping in desktop and notebook integrated.

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This table actually shows both AMD and NVIDIA losing marketshare to Intel but this includes ALL segments, not just the discrete market. 

Why is this news interesting?  For one, we expected AMD to do much better based solely on having a better product portfolio than NVIDIA in Q4.  The Radeon HD 5870 was launched in September of 2009 and thus had the entire quarter, along with releases of the HD 5850, HD 5770, HD 5750 and even the HD 5970, to gain ground on the aging and often criticized NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards.  That didn’t happen according to JPR and the reasons for it are likely two fold.

First, JPR rightly blames the horrible 40nm transition that TSMC (both AMD’s and NVIDIA’s primary fab) went through in 2009.  With severe product shortages during the key months of October and November, there were a lot of sales lost for AMD’s Radeon 5000-series of cards.  How many of those potential customers decided to wait versus the number that bought the widely available NVIDIA cards built on the TSMC 55nm process is difficult to calculate but that was obviously happening to some degree.

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Despite architectural, performance and feature benefits provided by AMD’s new Radeon 5000-series, the company was unable to gain discrete graphics marketshare in Q4 2009.

Another potential reason for the inability for AMD to gain ground in discrete marketshare could be the consumers lack of desire to upgrade or to upgrade to features like DirectX 11 and Eyefinity that were unique to AMD during Q4.  While we at PC Perspective were fawning over the new features the Radeon HD 5000-series of cards offered it would appear that the mass audience either didn’t read our site (what???) or didn’t care either way. 

For NVIDIA’s management this is likely a great vindication – they have weathered the first half of the storm; the other half coming in Q1 2010 until their Fermi products are released.  Even with inferior products at most price points (in this editor’s perspective at least) the company was able to not only hold off AMD but actually move forward in the world of discrete graphics. 

In more general news, it was great to see that the market had significant growth in 2009 – up 14% compared to just 6% in 2008.  And according to the projected growth for 2010 and 2011, graphics will become the hottest topic in computing once again.

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