Apple, Lenovo top list of chip buyers
Boosted by greater international demand for their products, Apple and Lenovo last year posted the largest gains in semiconductor consumption among the world's leading consumer electronics brands.
'The major growth drivers in 2011 were smartphones, media tablets and solid-state drives,' said Masatsune Yamaji, a principal research analyst at market research company Gartner.
The firm estimated that the top 10 brands accounted for US$105.6 billion of semiconductors, or more than one-third of all chip sales last year, on a design total available market (TAM) basis - a measure of total silicon content in an electronic equipment maker's products. This was up from US$104.3 billion in 2010.
Design TAM is a useful index for semiconductor suppliers when they are considering how to allocate their sales or field application engineer resources by customer, according to a Gartner industry report yesterday.
'Those companies that gained share in the smartphone market, such as Apple, Samsung Electronics and HTC, increased their semiconductor demand, while those who lost market share in this segment, such as Nokia and LG Electronics, decreased their semiconductor demand,' said Yamaji.
Preliminary estimates for total semiconductor sales last year showed that the industry advanced a modest 0.9 per cent to US$302 billion, as demand slowed down in the second half of the year largely because of economic uncertainty.
Apple was the biggest semiconductor customer last year among the top consumer electronics brands, as it climbed from third place to unseat former No1 Hewlett-Packard and outpace second-ranked Samsung Electronics.
The iPhone and iPad maker's chip purchases grew 34.6 per cent to US$17.26 billion from US$12.82 billion in 2010, buoyed by strong demand for its popular smartphone, media tablet and MacBook Air laptop over the past 12 months.
Gartner has described Apple as 'a new-style vertically integrated company' that designs hardware, and provides software and services for its smartphones, media tablets, personal computers (PCs) and portable media players, while these gadgets' production is outsourced to electronics manufacturing service providers.
Mainland computer giant Lenovo, meanwhile, jumped from 10th place to take over the No 8 spot from LG Electronics in Gartner's design TAM ranking. The rise was driven by record PC sales and its aggressive foray into smartphones, media tablets and internet-ready 'smart' television.
Lenovo, the world's second-largest supplier of personal computers, saw its chip consumption rise 23.8 per cent last year to US$7.54 billion from US$6.09 billion in 2010 on the back of record total PC shipments of 45.7 million units last year.
'We have grown faster than the industry for 10 straight quarters and have been the world's fastest-growing PC maker for eight straight quarters,' Lenovo spokeswoman Angela Lee said.