When Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) pre-announced materially higher numbers for its Q2 than it had originally guided for, shares of the chip giant lit up to the tune of 6.83%, closing just shy of $30 per share -- a multiyear high. However, smaller PC chip vendor Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD ) saw its shares slump 0.23% in Friday's session. While some may argue that what's good for Intel is good for AMD, the market was signaling otherwise.
Intel's beat was driven by corporate PCs; AMD doesn't participate much here
AMD's overall share of the PC microprocessor market is somewhere in the range of 15%-20% with market share within different sub-segments varying. In low-end consumer PCs, for example, AMD has traditionally had north of 50% share, according to Intel's Kirk Skaugen. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Intel's share within corporate PCs has traditionally been over 90%.
So if Intel's big revenue beat is due to business PC sales that are coming in stronger than expected, then it is unlikely that AMD benefited to any meaningful extent this quarter. AMD's PC business is very highly levered to consumer-oriented desktop computers and the low end of the consumer notebook space. Thus, ultimately it will be the secular trends in those segments -- as well as the company's ability to maintain/gain share here -- that will tell the tale.
Key question: Can AMD actually hold or gain share in consumer PCs?
While Intel's business update cited strong performance in business PCs, the question still remains as to whether the consumer PC business in general is set to bottom. This is something that, unfortunately, nobody can predict, but causal observation of the price points and quality of PC designs on the market suggests that, at the very least, there's longer-term hope.
That said, many of the slicker low-cost PC designs have gone to Intel's Celeron and Pentium lineup of chips rather than AMD's Kabini or Beema. For example, notebooks based on Google's Chrome OS are now mostly Intel-powered (with a couple of ARM Holdings-based designs from the likes of Samsung and a few others still on the market). So, if a Chromebook sells in place of a low-cost Windows 8.1 machine, Intel is likely to benefit at the expense of AMD.
However, it's not just Chrome. For example, the Toshiba Satellite Click 2 Windows 8.1 convertible is powered by Intel's Bay Trail-M silicon, but last year's model was powered by an AMD chip. While this (and a couple of other examples) doesn't necessarily point to AMD losing share (for instance, AMD's parts may have wound up in upcoming designs that ultimately sell in higher volumes than some of these converted designs do), it does pay to be cautious here.
Foolish bottom line
AMD may very well do better than expected this quarter, and who knows, perhaps the consumer PC market is getting better as well and AMD's share position is better than it seems. However, the market today was very cautious about running AMD up in sympathy, and for the reasons I've outlined, that's not surprising.
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