Processor Wars hot up in the 2020s

Sunil Rajguru
New Update

Not just desktops and laptops, but billions of mobiles, hundreds of millions of IoT devices interacting with millions of data centres. This is the new cloud paradigm and the processing scene has seen a sea change in the last couple of years.


There was a time when the term Wintel (Windows + Intel) ruled the processing world. Microsoft had a monopoly in the Operating System and office software world while Intel had a monopoly in the CPU domain. There was Apple, but that never held enough market share to rock Wintel. This was absolutely true in the Desktop Era, but most of that dominance carried into the Laptop Era.

The real change came with the advent of mobiles where all attempts at a Microsoft mobile OS fell flat and it is nowhere in the scene. It was Google’s Android that took over the monopoly in that domain. Intel however survived because Apple started using Intel chips for both Macs and iPhones. But even that arrangement has fallen apart.

The mobile workforce crossed 1 billion some time back and is now heading toward the 2 billion mark, further accelerated by the Covid Era. As a personal device, almost everyone on Earth has a mobile and it is the most successful gadget ever.


The smartphone is getting more and more processing power and endless apps. Thanks to the cloud, storage is not an issue, even though that is increasing on the device too. The mobile processor market is dominated by Qualcomm and Mediatek followed by Samsung, Apple and HiSilicon. There is no monopoly here and all of them are seeing ups and downs quarter to quarter.

Another fast growing market is the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) one and it's not just about gaming. GPUs will play a big role in the world of XR—Extended Reality (VR-Virtual Reality + AR-Augmented Reality and MR-Mixed Reality) and subsequently fields like automotives and Industry 4.0. Here the monopoly belongs to Nvidia with AMD as the challenger.

One thing that will queer the pitch is quantum computing. Here Google claimed quantum supremacy last year and the Chinese in 2020. There are a host of new companies that have dazzled in the game with oldies like Microsoft and IBM also in the game.


When it comes to CPUs it is also a fast changing market quarter per quarter. But even here AMD has narrowed the gap with Intel thanks to its highly successful Ryzen series. In the desktop scene they are going neck to neck and in the laptop AMD had breached the 20% market share after many years. Overall this was the first time in ages that the CPU market share fell below the two-thirds mark for Intel.

What this means is that there are many types of processors and many types of players and a total monopoly is unlikely. Fortunes are changing drastically quarter to quarter in a market that sometimes would be stagnant for years in the past.

All in all an exciting time and we will witness multiple processor battles in the 2020s!

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