Workstation competition remains fierce

The workstation continues to adapt to a changing marketplace, but remains a critical and viable platform serving the demands of today’s professional users. Competition remains fierce, pressuring the ability of vendors to keep prices down and product refreshes up.

Jon Peddie Research reports

that roughly 1.7 billion workstations were shipped in 2004, accounting for approximately US$4.5 billion in worldwide revenue. Of that, the PC-Derived Workstation, a machine that leverages technologies derived from the high-volume PC platform, accounted for roughly 92 per cent of units and 88 per cent of revenue, while the share of Traditional Proprietary (RISC/Unix) workstations continued to shrink.

Make or break time for AMD

Last year was the year AMD won respect and mindshare as a real threat to Intel’s stranglehold on workstations. “The next two years will be make or break for AMD in workstations. It has the OEMs, it will finally have 64-bit Windows, and it offers architectural advantages for many memory- and compute-intensive professional applications,” said author and JPR analyst Alex Herrera. “But Intel is aggressively closing the gap, so if AMD is to take share, now is the time.&quot

Linux appeal limited

Surprisingly, Linux has not put a big dent in Windows market share among professional workstation users. Lines today are drawn along 32- and 64-bit boundaries, with Windows dominating 32-bit applications and Linux drawing on the base that had been tied to proprietary 64-bit Unix. As such, Linux has done more to accelerate the transition away from Traditional Proprietary Workstations than draw users from Windows. In 2005, Windows will finally be able to serve 64-bit applications and may even begin to put pressure on Linux, rather than the other way around.

Aggressive graphics battle

On the professional graphics front, Nvidia and ATI continue to duke it out for leadership position. Where ATI currently holds the edge in the consumer and corporate markets, Nvidia has developed a dominant position in the professional space through its Quadro brand. But ATI did anything but back off from the professional market in 2004, advancing its market share in 3D hardware while also introducing its own professional 2D brand to compete directly with Nvidia.

The semi-annual workstation report explores and analyzes the technology and market forces shaping today’s workstations. With in-depth attention to the major vendors driving the workstation platform, as well as a detailed sizing of the marketplace for both workstations and professional graphics hardware.

Jon Peddie is based in Tiburon, Calif. and provides consulting, research, and other specialized services to technology companies, including graphics development, multimedia for professional applications and consumer electronics, high-end computing, and Internet-access product development.

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