Workstation vendors had to be relieved by third quarter market results, as the industry found some sorely-needed footing, yielding some positive - and very welcome - gains.
Going back to fourth quarter of 2011, the workstation market had hit some roadblocks, suffering three consecutive down quarters. But that string was mercifully broken in the third quarter of this year. Alex Herrera, Jon Peddie Research (JPR) senior analyst reports that workstation vendors shipped about 932 thousand branded workstations, representing an increase of 5.5% over Q2'12. Especially considering that third quarter shipments often take a dip after Q2, that otherwise modest 5.5% figure is a sight for sore OEMs' eyes.
The third quarter results are evidence that, despite sharing much of the same core technologies, PCs and workstations aren't the same thing.
"Consumer-grade PCs might be suffering at the hands of tablets and smartphones, but these alternative computing devices do not present the same threat to workstations," points out Herrera.
"If your usage is limited to email, social media and web-browsing, then a tablet might be an attractive replacement for your PC, but the same doesn't hold for professionals that demand the utmost in performance, reliability and ergonomics. For engineers, scientists, researchers and creators of all kinds, there is simply no substitute for a workstation."
"However," added Jon Peddie, "Tablets are finding their place alongside workstations as engineers take them into the field for checking drawings and capturing site data and pictures".
With 41.4% of units sold, HP maintained unquestioned control over the workstation market, clearly separating itself from Dell at 30.7%, down from the previous quarter's 32.5%. Lenovo continued its record of steady, rising to 13.3%, while Fujitsu rounded out the Tier 1 rankings with 3.9%. Herrera estimates that non Tier 1 suppliers were responsible for the remaining 10.8%.
The related market for professional graphics hardware had been stuck in the same doldrums as workstations, but the third quarter yielded good results for suppliers Nvidia and AMD as well. Sequentially, shipments fell 3.4% to around 1.06 million units, including both deskside add-in cards as well as mobile GPUs. But Herrera points out there were two sides to that coin.
"Mobile GPU shipments dropped dramatically for the quarter, but that was likely one quarter's aberration, rather than an indication of any systemic weakness in the segment," Herrera explained. "Consider instead the 7.1% sequential gain in conventional professional graphics add-in cards, and the quarter's results do far more to bolster our confidence than erode it."