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New report claims Qualcomm is surprise leader in mobile GPU shipments

Who is shipping the most mobile graphics processors these days? Not Intel, at least according to specialist consultants Jon Peddie Research (JPR).

The surprise answer is in fact Qualcomm, according to the semiconductor research firm. Intel does ship a ton of integrated graphics products that wind up in laptops, while Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Nvidia are the leaders in discrete GPU shipments for mobile PCs.

But for its latest report, JPR decided to look at the entire mobile GPU market - comprising all physical unit shipments for laptops, vehicles, handheld game machines, smartphones, and tablets.

The research firm found that nearly 900 million mobile GPUs of all types shipped in 2011, and projects unit shipments to surpass 1 billion in 2012. The mobile GPU leader, Qualcomm, owned 25 per cent of the market last year, while runner-up Intel had a 19 per cent share.

Also in the mix: Apple with a 15 per cent share of the mobile GPU market, Texas Instruments with 11 per cent, Samsung with 9 per cent, AMD with 6 per cent, and Nvidia with 5 per cent.

JPR reported that all other mobile GPU makers had 10 per cent of the market in 2011. Those companies included Allwinner, Amlog¬ic, Broadcom, DMP, Freescale, Mar¬vell, MediaTek, Rockchip, ST-Ericcson, Wonder Media, and ZiLabs.

Raw unit shipment numbers don't tell the whole story, of course. The high-end discrete graphics made by AMD and Nvidia for notebook PCs have a far higher average selling price than the GPU portions of the tiny SOCs that wind up in handsets, for example.

What's more, shipping physical units isn't the only way to make money in the mobile GPU business, JPR notes. Imagination Technologies "is still the big winner on IP," according to the research firm - Imagination intellectual property was in 35 per cent of the mobile GPUs shipped last year.

JPR expects 1.3 billion GPUs of all types to ship in 2012, including mobile GPUs and parts used in desktop PCs and television sets.