Apple storms ahead on global semiconductor spend

Apple leapfrogged Hewlett-Packard and Samsung Electronics in 2011 to become the world’s largest semiconductor customer, according to new research from Gartner.

The consumer technology giant spent more than $17 billion on semiconductors like DRAM (computer memory which holds ongoing processes) and central processing units (where computations are carried out) in 2011, an increase of 35 percent on 2010.

The top ten semiconductor customers accounted for $106 billion of demand, 35% of total semiconductor revenue. That list includes HP, Dell, Toshiba and Lenovo, as well as smartphone and household electronics manufacturers.

The biggest spending slump came from Nokia, which saw semiconductor outgoings fall by 20%, more than any other company in the top ten. Once the world’s leading phone company, Nokia has been somewhat left on smartphones, but is working to make a comeback with its new Lumia phones. Research in Motion, the troubled Canadian smartphone manufacturer who recently appointed a new CEO, were not in the top ten.

Masatsune Yamaji, a Gartner researcher who worked on the report, said that the the quick-shifting IT landscape means that semiconductor vendors couldn’t afford just to monitor the top ten customers. "Vendors need to be constantly looking for new market entrants who will, in turn, be tomorrow’s market leaders," Yamaji said.

While smartphones, tablets and solid-state hard drives were the main growth factors, the report noted that Apple had sold enough Macbook Airs to increase semiconductor demand in its PC business too.

On the sales side for 2011, Intel was the clear leader, with almost double the revenue of second place Samsung Electronic according to IHS iSupply’s rankings. Intel made a 23% revenue jump from 2010 revenue, and now holds 16% of the semiconductor market.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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