Over the last several quarters, NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) has gained substantial market segment share in the stand-alone graphics processor market. In fact, according to research firm Mercury Research, NVIDIA's share of the market for stand-alone desktop graphics chips was a cool 82% in the second quarter, representing both quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year increases.
This share gain has come at the expense of NVIDIA's only competitor in this market, Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD), which captured just 18% of the market for stand-alone desktop graphics chips in the second quarter.
At this point, a question worth exploring is: "Will NVIDIA continue to gain stand-alone graphics chip share at AMD's expense?"
Background: NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture has been a "game changer"
NVIDIA's significantly strengthened its desktop-oriented graphics processor offerings in the third quarter of last year with the launch of its GeForce GTX 970/980 graphics chips based on the company's Maxwell architecture. Both of these cards offered best-in-class performance and power consumption at launch.
Since then, NVIDIA has expanded its product portfolio with additional Maxwell-based chips. At higher price points than the $500 GeForce GTX 980, NVIDIA now sells the GeForce GTX 980 Ti (starting at $650) as well as the GeForce GTX Titan X (starting at $1,000).
At lower price points, NVIDIA has gone after the $199 to roughly $240 price points with the GTX 960, and even recently brought Maxwell to the $160 to $170 price points with the GTX 950.
According to Mercury Research, NVIDIA's stand-alone desktop-oriented GPU share was 62% in the second quarter of 2014 and moved dramatically upward beginning in the third quarter. It's likely not a coincidence that NVIDIA began seeing a sizable uptick in market segment share following the Maxwell launch.
AMD has finally responded, but will the market care?
A reason that some will cite for AMD's dramatic market segment share erosion is the fact that AMD's response to Maxwell at the high end didn't show up until June of this year with the launch of AMD's Fury/Fury X graphics cards.
Third-party reviews of the $650 Fury X show that it is slightly slower than the $650 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti. According to a review from TechPowerUp, the $549 R9 Fury offers about 7.5% better performance than the $499 vanilla GeForce GTX 980 at 2560-by-1440 resolution.
The problem for the Fury, though, is that factory-overclocked GTX 980s such as the ASUS Strix GeForce GTX 980 -- which can be had for around $510 before rebate ($480 after rebate) on both Newegg.com and Amazon.com -- could significantly narrow the performance gap between the Fury and "standard" GTX 980s while still coming in cheaper.
The rest of AMD's lineup -- the Radeon 300-series cards -- appear to be slightly faster variants (with more memory in some cases) of the same fundamental chip designs used in the corresponding Radeon 200-series cards.
At any rate, I believe that a good indicator of what the market share dynamics will look like for the next several quarters will be that of both graphics chip vendors during the third quarter.
AMD's new graphics offerings will have been in the market since the beginning of the third quarter, suggesting that if these new products are going to have an impact, it will become evident then.
If things start turning around for AMD with respect to stand-alone graphics chip share in the third quarter, then that could be a reasonable indicator that its graphics chip lineup may just be strong enough to catalyze several quarters of share gain.
However, if despite new products AMD's share remains flat or even continues to decline in the third quarter, I would expect continued pain for AMD's stand-alone graphics chip business through at least this product cycle.