The workstation market proceeded ahead in the fourth quarter of 2011, completing a long climb back from the 2009 depths. But that fourth quarter advance was more a case of "steady as she goes" than "full speed ahead", reports Jon Peddie Research senior analyst Alex Herrera.
The market research firm says that the market has not only fully recovered from the recession, it's showing continued stability and some undeniable signs of strength. But at the same time, there remain scattered pockets of concern, as the market has yet to resume the pace of growth it sustained back in the years 2005 through 2008.
In the third quarter, the market for the first time exceeded one million units shipped, clear evidence it had more than made up for the steep decline of late 2008 and 2009. Q4 couldn't quite cross that million unit mark, though it came close. All told, around 998.9 thousand workstations shipped worldwide, representing a healthy - but by no means torrid - 10.5% year-over-year gain.
HP firmly on top, but the company' spin-off debacle of Q3'11 appeared to dent sales in Q4.
Responsible for 41.3% of units shipped in the fourth quarter, HP now holds control over the workstation market, clearly separating itself from Dell at 33.4%. But the company suffered an uncharacteristic and self-imposed setback back in the third quarter, when then-CEO Leo Apotheker put into doubt the future of HP workstations by essentially putting its parent business unit, the Personal Systems Group, on the trading block. And that raised the question as to whether management's flakiness might be reflected in a market share dip, even a very temporary one.
That does appear to be the case, as HP's share bucked previous trends and slipped in the fourth quarter. Still, the firm doesn't think HP's done any long-term damage with its about-face. Considering the company's continuing aggressive posture in the marketplace - witness the impressive new Z1 all-in-one workstation - Herrera believes HP's decline will be limited to a short-term bump in the road.
With a few solid, if not spectacular, recent GPU generations under its belt, AMD had been able to steal several share points from market leader Nvidia. While the magnitude of AMD's gain, and corresponding Nvidia decline, was by no means game-changing, it was statistically significant. The company's FirePro brand had been taking its market share steadily upward, topping out at 19.5% in the third quarter of 2011.
However, it appears the limited momentum AMD's been able to muster ran out of steam in Q4. Not only did AMD's FirePro brand not gain on Nvidia's Quadro, it took a small step backward, coming in at 18.4%.