The big picture: The overall CPU market saw the largest year-over-year increase in shipments in the last 25 years, with Intel gaining some x86 market share in the desktop space while losing some of its grip on the server segment to AMD and its Epyc CPU series.
Intel is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with the first being the dominating force of Arm in the mobile space and the second being an ambitious AMD that has gradually shed its underdog skin to become a serious contender in desktop and laptop CPUs, and an increasingly competitive rival in the data center as well. The Lisa Su-powered AMD saw a record first quarter with almost double the revenue compared to the period last year.
According to analysis by Mercury Research, AMD saw the fastest growth in server sales in over fifteen years, taking a strong bite into Intel's dominance in hyperscale computing hardware. Specifically, it grew to just under nine percent market share on the back of strong Epyc CPU sales. President of Mercury Research Dean McCarron notes this was a major contributor to the increase in average selling price for AMD CPUs.
This would also explain, at least in part, why Intel's Data Center Group delivered less than stellar results for the first three months of the year, down 20 percent compared to the same quarter of 2020.
Likewise, the first quarter of 2021 was not as successful for AMD in areas like consumer CPUs for laptops and desktops. The company has been struggling to meet demand as it depends on TSMC at a time when the foundry has a growing backlog of orders and hopes to overcome component shortages sometime in 2022. Intel capitalized on this by pricing its entry-level CPUs more aggressively and effectively grabbing some market share back from AMD for the first time in three years.
The Mercury Research report notes that the CPU market has seen significant momentum over the last year as every quarter registers a new record in the total amount of sales.
The first quarter of the year usually sees lower sales volume, but the first quarter of 2021 saw a 41 percent year-over-year increase, the highest recorded for the CPU market in 25 years.