Continuing our analysis of Steam’s monthly hardware survey [July 2009, August 2009], this September 2009 update shows that majority of trends continued, but several new hardware and software purchasing trends appeared.

OS Wars: Yet unreleased Windows 7 OS puts writing on the wall for 32-bit Windows XP
Looking in probably the most interesting category, we can see that the most popular operative system among all Steam users is still 32-bit Windows XP, used by more than half of all users [52.10%]. However, the share is falling off a cliff, losing 1.4-1.6% on monthly basis. This means every month, around 300,000 gamers abandon Windows XP and switch to Windows 7 – we expect this trend to accelerate after the official release, happening this Thursday.
Windows XP lost 1.38% of its installed user base, or around 290,000 of its users – with 64-bit Windows 7 taking lions share [1.05%], followed by 0.54% for 32-bit version of Windows 7. The difference comes from Windows Vista users, who also slowly start to abandon the boat. Still, Windows Vista accounts for 36.38% of all Steam users [11.71% use 64-bit OS].
All in all, Windows 7 now accounts for 9.96% of all users, meaning some 2.3 million users utilize this unreleased operating system. If that’s not quick adoption, we don’t know what is. A three month trend showed that Windows XP time is up, with OS losing more than 1.3 million users to Windows 7. We would expect that in next months’ update, 32-bit Windows XP share drops below 50%.
64-bit operating systems captured 19.47% of all users, meaning some 4.48 million people use 64-bit OS for gaming.

CPU Wars: Intel grabs another 70,000 users from AMD

Since we started to follow Steam Hardware Survey, AMD did not post one month in "green", i.e. taking market share from Intel. "GenuineIntel" processors are now used by 68.28% of all users, while "AuthenticAMD" processor string make up for 31.71%. During September 2009, around 70,000 users defected to Intel platform. Taking a look at number of processor cores, we can see that both AMD and Intel are scoring well with quad-core CPUs, now making 19.07% of all users. Given the share drop, single-core are now adopting quad-core processors, mostly going from AMD Athlon 64 processors to Intel Core i5 and i7-based processors. Taking a look into the world of overclockers, out of 820,000 overclockers – around 170,000 users managed to get their processors at speeds beyond 3.7 GHz, much faster than any shipped CPU to date.

GPU Wars: Time for replacing the GeForce 8800 is here, ATI riding in with 4800 series
In the world of graphics cards, first cracks are starting to appear in nVidia’s armor. GeForce 8800 series started to see the decline, now making up for only 9.89% of all users [-0.40% loss in 30 days, 0.92% 90 day loss]. Its replacement is no other than ATI Radeon HD 4800 series taking 7.89% [+0.43% 30 days gain, 1.52% 120 day gain]. We expect this trend to gain more ground as the time goes by. Overall, nVidia still owns 65.38% of gaming market, with ATI continues to hold the very same 27.26%. The reason for that as always, are low end cards where nVidia still rules the roost. Also, GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 275 continued to capture neat market share, taking 3.94% of overall graphics market.
When it comes to video memory, we can see that most cards sold during September featured 1GB to 2GB of video memory: 1GB was the memory of choice for 1.02% buyers, making up a grand total of 11.60%. Also, 2GB memory marks a significant push forward, but still not enough to be included in the main table.
Interesting bit for multi-GPU lovers: even with 4870X2 and GTX295 on the market, the overall share is still fairly insignificant: nVidia captured 2.08%, while ATI’s dual-GPU configuration languishes with 0.25%. 3-Way SLI [0.04%] and QuadSLI [0.02%] are quite insignificant, with 3GPU and 4GPU configurations by ATI practically don’t exist. With these low numbers, we see that there are only 550,000 "cream of the crop" gamers. Still, at around $800 ASP [Average Selling Price], that means those 550,000 gamers accounted for around 440 million USD in revenue – not a small chunk of change. Even though the installed user base is small, potential revenue opportunity is such that neither AMD nor nVidia can afford to neglect this market.

Memory: People buy 4GB systems, see only 3GB
Looking into the system memory area, Steam unfortunately does not differ different memory standards – having a differentiator between DDR1, DDR2 and DDR3 would prove most useful. But even without this metrics, the trends are easy to spot: 28.59% of all Steam users have 3GB memory [0.62% 30 day gain], with additional 10.74% owning 4GB [0.56% 30 day gain]. 2GB still rule the roost with 32.67%, but that share is dropping on month to month basis. Same thing is with 1GB of system memory, which dropped from 23.27% to 15.04% in only four months.
If majority of 3GB users actually own 4GB and run a 32-bit operating system, waiting for Windows 7, for instance, 4GB memory could capture as much as 39.33%. This means gamers understand the need for more memory and aren’t afraid to upgrade the system.

Storage: When 1TB is not enough
We are witnessing an interesting trend: majority of users are going either for 500GB or 1TB drives, with no or little middle ground: 31.34% own a hard drive with capacity from 100-249GB [1.02% loss], 30.17% own 250-499GB drive [+0.56 gain], 750-999GB segment takes 7.58% [0.27% gain], with beyond 1TB capacities capturing 10.44% [0.49% gain]. Given that 1TB drives register as 940-960GB, 1TB drives fit in this category. Looking at storage and the past three months, the image is really clear – most of new computers or upgrades start at 1TB hard drive and then move toward 1.5TB and 2TB drives. Who is not present in the 1.5 and 2TB space, misses out on tens of thousands of units each and every month. We are currently investigating one manufacturer, and will let you know of results this week.

Display Wars: 1920×1080 gaining ground, 1280×1024 and 1680×1050 dropping fast
After taking over the majority of Steam users [53.04% overall share], widescreen displays are starting to mutually fight each other? long standing widescreen champ, 1680×1050 resolution is starting to lose share to 16:9 aspect displays – 1366×768 [Steam detects 1360x768 and 1366x768 take 3.19% share, 0.47% 30 day gain] and 1920×1080 [4.34% share, 0.54% 30 day gain]. 1920×1200 resolution is one of rare 16:10 aspect ratio resolutions that is still gaining [5.49% share, 0.06% gain], mostly due to pushes by Dell and HP. But if we take FullHD compliant displays into one big resolution, Steam has 9.83% Full HD compliant displays or roughly 2.3 million people own a FullHD [1080p] compliant display.

Conclusion
PC setup for 2010 is emerging fast: a quad-core processor, 4GB of system memory, Full-HD capable display and 896-1024MB of video memory. Storage-wise, buyers are acquiring either 500GB or 1TB hard drives, with every other capacity being in the background. If you manufacture hardware and are not hitting afore mentioned trends, you should think what are you missing out.