The year 2011 will be the biggest period yet for graphics-enabled microprocessors (GEM), as the penetration of GEMs reaches 50 percent in notebook PCs and 45 percent in desktops, according to IHS iSuppli research.
GEMs are microprocessors that feature a central processing unit (CPU) as well as a graphics processing unit in a single-chip design, supplementing the brains of a PC with more graphics capability to run visually intensive applications.
Global GEM penetration in the notebook segment in 2011 may reach 50 percent, a dramatic 11 percentage points from 39 percent in 2010.
With worldwide notebook shipments expected to amount to more than 230 million units this year, GEMs will be in about 115 million notebooks by the end of 2011.
For desktops, GEM penetration this year is expected to increase by a robust 9 percentage points from 36 percent in 2010.
IHS expects shipments of GEM-equipped desktop PCs to exceed 63 million in 2011 as desktop PC shipments experiencing resurgence in 2010 and 2011 thanks to strong corporate replacement demand. By 2014, 83 percent of all notebook PCs and 76 percent of desktop PCs worldwide will ship with GEMs.
With GEMs capable of generating the total graphic output of a PC, no additional graphics processor or add-in graphics card is needed. Computers today are serving up ever-richer multimedia experiences, so the graphics capabilities of PCs have become more important, driving the rising penetration of GEMs, said Peter Lin, principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS in a statement.
Intel vs. AMD
The two biggest players in the PC microprocessor field, Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD), are intensifying their competition in the GEM market in 2011, IHS iSuppli research indicates.
Intel at the beginning of 2011 was getting ready to launch its second-generation Core processor family known as Sandy Bridge, which integrates the CPU and graphics processor into one single piece of silicon. AMD, on the other hand, will release five application platforms with five GEM microprocessor categories.
A third player, VIA, caters to different markets with GEM solutions for embedded and industrial applications.
GEMs vs. Discrete Graphic Cards
Despite their rising popularity, GEMs are unlikely to offer the same high level of performance as discrete graphics cards, IHS believes. Discrete graphics cards will remain the solution of choice for leading-edge graphics, providing high-end performance for applications such as games. In comparison, GEMs could be used to satisfy the needs of the mass PC market that does not require high-level graphics functionality, with the product targeted at the mainstream and value PC segments.
As a result, while some cannibalization of the discrete graphics market will occur because of GEMs, erosion of the discrete market will not be significant in the short to medium term, IHS believes.