If you ever wondered how to earn real money in the semiconductor industry, the answer was always just one – sell high-end stuff. This is even true in both commercial and consumer markets, since Xeon is essentially Core 2 processor, yet it costs orders of magnitude more (the minute you start putting 2/4/8 socket systems).
In the world of graphics, it is clear – sell one Quadro FX 5800 card and your profit margin equals to selling around dozen GeForce GTX 285 cards, who again, sell for more profit than 50-60 low-end graphics cards (yep, you’ve read correctly – fifty to sixty low-end cards).
Confirmation came in this Valve’s monthly update to their hardware survey, probably the best statistics about gaming hardware out there, touching “only” 16+ million people. This survey shows that the Christmas shopping season smiled nicely on Intel on the CPU side and both ATI and Nvidia on the graphics side.
Roughly 50.000 people who used Intel’s integrated graphics subsystem bought ATI and Nvidia GPUs, reducing Intel’s share to 5.07% (5% too much, if you ask me). ATI now owns 27.25%, while Nvidia marginally increased its share to 64.72% of all graphics cards used. Big losers were also owners of multi-GPU configurations. As users are selling their 8800GTX SLI and 9800GX2 cards, most of them opted for a single graphics card, such as GeForce GTX or Radeon 4800 series. Less than 300.000 Steam users own a multi-GPU setup, yet everybody in the industry state that multi-GPU setup is the future?
On the CPU side, things turned quite interesting for the eternal battle between AMD and Intel. As you could read in the title, 0.43% of all users use Intel’s 8-core Skulltrail platform, while Phenom X3 has marginally higher market share (0.49%). 8-core Skulltrail beat 3-Core Phenom by almost four times, and by survey for March 2009, Skulltrail will probably overtake 3-core Phenoms in terms of overall share. Rough estimate would be roughly 70.000 Skulltrail systems out there, and 80.000 Phenom X3 systems. Who earned more money?
My take is that a certain ex-ATI/now-AMD is now chewing his hat of, because it was his decision to kill FASN8, AMD’s Barcelona-powered dual-socket gaming system.
In case you missed, this also proves that a certain Voodoo-empowered HP executive was wrong in his column about the end of high-end gaming machines. A lot of workstation users bought Skulltrail machines, but this statistics applies to people who installed Steam on their computers. And as we all know, it’s not that Steam is used for distribution of AutoCAD, Maya, Adobe CS4 and other professional software packages.
This month was also big on DirectX 10 – almost 25% of all users now use DirectX 10 on Windows Vista. Then again, percentage of owners of DirectX 10 hardware and DX9 operating system (Windows XP) jumped to 27.28% (up by 2%) as well.
All in all, Steam Hardware Survey once more provided us with an invaluable insight into the world of gaming hardware. I am personally surprised with the success of Skulltrail platform, given the state of economy and prices of Skulltrail systems. Then again, it is a living proof that Francois Piednoel and his team at Intel knew what they were doing when they created V8, followed by Skulltrail.
On a side note, I can’t wait for Nehalem-EP based Skulltrail… codename Skullcrusher? Greyscull? Or again back in the car world with Bugatti-like V-16 (two 4-core CPUs feature 8 threads each, thus 16 cores visible in task manager 😉 )?