SAN FRANCISCO -- Saying it has experienced a "virtual stampede of customers," Advanced Micro Devices Inc. reported yesterday that it had captured more than 30 percent of the market for the 386 microprocessor in the fourth quarter of 1991, leading to record quarterly revenues and its highest profit margins since 1984.
The semiconductor company, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said it had sold more than $145 million in 386 processors, many more than under the company's most optimistic projections.
The sales signal that the monopoly Intel Corp. has enjoyed on this silicon cash cow, the central chip in millions of personal computers, has been shattered.
Advanced Micro's success in cloning the 386 has also resulted in a turnaround for a company that has been struggling with losses and low profits since 1985. During that time, industry analysts suggested the need to replace W. J. Sanders 3rd, the company's founder, chairman and chief executive, who has personified his company in a way few other chief executives have.
Some analysts say that Advanced Micro has become too dependent on one product and that the boom may not last. They say the 386 market will diminish as Intel moves customers to the more advanced 486, for which it has no competition, and tothe 386-SL, a chip geared for tiny, battery-powered computers.
Intel also said this week that it would cut the prices on its basic 386 chip by up to 35 percent, making it tougher on Advanced Micro.
Intel, which last year became the nation's largest semiconductor company, still has lawsuits pending against Advanced Micro for copyright infringement that could force Advanced Micro to withdraw its chips from the market, modify them or pay royalties to Intel.
For the fourth quarter of 1991, Advanced Micro reported net income of $106.7 million, or $1.17 a share, six times that of the third quarter and a sharp contrast to a loss of $42.9 million in the comparable 1990 quarter.