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Statistic could alter graphics chip market for Intel, Nvidia

A new report from Jon Peddie Research shows that Intel is strong in graphics. But how dominant is it?

Intel officially still rules the graphics chip market. But an arcane-sounding statistic called "double-attach" may redefine the chipmaker's standing.

First, the official first-quarter graphics chip market share numbers. Total shipments for Q1 were 95 million units, down 5.6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 and up 20 percent over the same period in the previous year, according to Jon Peddie Research.

"Traditionally, the first quarter has flat to negative growth for the computer industry as retailers and OEMs sell what's left from the holiday season. The quarter saw the biggest drop since 2005," said Peddie.

Total Graphics Chip Market shares for Q1'08
Total graphics chip market shares for the first quarter of 2008. Jon Peddie Research

In the overall graphics market (desktops and notebooks), Intel held its first place position, claiming 42.7 percent, up from about 38.7 percent in the same period of the previous year, the market researcher said.

Nvidia's share stood at 32.7 percent, up from 28.5 percent in the year-earlier period. Advanced Micro Devices was at 18.6 percent, down from a 22 percent share last year.

On the desktop, Intel took back its first place position (year-to-year) with a 38 percent share against Nvidia's 36 percent, while AMD moved up to 19 percent, Peddie said.

In the notebook market, Intel held its dominant position but slipped one point to 53 percent while Nvidia gained a point to 27 percent and AMD slid a point to 17 percent.

Intel dominates market share figures because virtually all Intel-based PCs (shipping over the last few years) have an Intel Integrated Graphics Processor (IGP) built in. And PC suppliers opt to use this low-end Intel IGP configuration in a number of models--particularly in the notebook market--because it's an extremely inexpensive way to provide graphics. Intel graphics chips are used in specialized markets like ultra-portables, too. The Apple MacBook Air and ThinkPad X300, for example, ship only with Intel X3100 integrated graphics.

But this isn't the whole story. In a post Nvidia-CEO-rant world, there is a push to recognize a pesky statistic called "double-attach." This means that a PC shipped with an integrated Intel graphics chip will be double attached when a separate graphics card is attached on top of the existing Intel graphics silicon. The Intel chip is disabled and goes "unused."

"The overall 'double attach' is about 35 percent," said Jon Peddie. That puts a sizable dent in Intel's market share. A recent report from Doug Freedman of American Technology Research went so far to say this: "Nvidia remains the No.1 graphics supplier as up to 73 mil Integrated (Intel) IGPs are unused in systems due to 'double-attach' with a Nvidia solution."