“Steady as she goes” characterizes workstation market in fourth quarter 2011

HP remains number one, but executive waffling hurt, says the latest report from Jon Peddie Research.

The workstation market closed 2011 by completing a long climb back from the depths of the global economic recession, according to the latest workstation market research report from Jon Peddie Research. The report characterizes the workstation market in the October-December 2011 period as a case of “steady as she goes” rather than “full speed ahead.”

According to JPR senior analyst Alex Herrera, the market’s fourth quarter followed a familiar storyline that has been unfolding over the previous few quarters. The market has not only fully recovered from the recession, but it is also showing continued stability and some undeniable signs of strength. But at the same time, there remain scattered pockets of concern, as the market has yet to resume the pace of growth it sustained back in the years 2005 through 2008.

In the third quarter of 2011 (July-September), the market for the first time exceeded 1 million units shipped, clear evidence it had more than made up for the steep decline of late 2008 and 2009. The fourth quarter (October-December 2011) couldn’t quite cross that million unit mark, though it came close. All told, around 998.9 thousand workstations shipped worldwide, representing a healthy—but by no means torrid—10.5% year-over-year gain.

HP remains on top, albeit shaky

Responsible for 41.3% of units shipped in the fourth quarter, HP now holds unquestioned control over the workstation market, clearly separating itself from Dell at 33.4%. But the company suffered an uncharacteristic and self-imposed setback back in the third quarter, when then-CEO Leo Apotheker put into doubt the future of HP workstations by essentially putting its parent business unit, the Personal Systems Group, on the trading block. And that raised the question as to whether management’s flakiness might be reflected in a market share dip, even a very temporary one. That does appear to be the case, JPR says, as HP’s share bucked previous trends and slipped in the fourth quarter.

The new HP Z1 workstation was met with enthusiastic response when it debuted February 2012. (Source: HP)

Reversing course on PSG was one of new CEO Meg Whitman’s first tasks, and it does seem to have helped sales. It would appear HP has not suffered any long-term damage with its about-face. Considering the company’s continuing aggressive posture in the marketplace—witness the impressive new Z1 all-in-one workstation — HP’s decline should be limited to a short-term bump in the road.

With a few solid, if not spectacular, recent GPU generations under its belt, AMD had been able to steal several share points from market leader Nvidia. While the magnitude of AMD’s gain, and corresponding Nvidia decline, was by no means game-changing, it was statistically significant. The company’s FirePro brand had been taking its market share steadily upward, topping out at 19.5% in the third quarter of 2011.

However, it appears the limited momentum AMD has been able to muster ran out of steam in 4Q11. Not only did AMD’s FirePro brand not gain on Nvidia’s Quadro, it took a small step backward, coming in at 18.4%.

More information: Jon Peddie Research