ANALYST OUTFIT ABI Research reports that revenue from mobile device chips rose 20 per cent in 2011, while the wider semiconductor market languished with just two per cent growth from the previous year.
While Intel enjoyed a bumper 2011, the rest of the semiconductor industry had to put up with low demand and equally low prices, with the DRAM market becoming the poster child for a stagnating semiconductor industry. However ABI Research reports that while the industry as a whole was lagging, the semiconductor firms involved in designing and making chips for mobile devices did exceptionally well.
ABI Research's findings show that revenue from chips used in mobile devices hit $35bn in 2011, a 20 per cent increase from the previous year. The outfit claims that the broader semiconductor industry grew by just two per cent during that time, meaning that mobile phones effectively kept the industry's head above water.
Given ABI Research's figures it is no surprise that Intel is desperately trying to get into the mobile phone industry. Although Intel does supply silicon and intellectual property to mobile device makers, Chipzilla ideally wants to be a system-on-chip (SoC) player to get a significant share of this growth market in semiconductors.
ABI Research claims wireless connectivity circuits for protocols such as Bluetooth, WiFi and NFC will see the biggest growth, with sensors and audio chips also becoming cash cows. The firm projects that the market for these three chip categories will grow by 30 per cent from 2011 to 2016.
AMD, which has said it has no intention of getting into the smartphone business, might need to reconsider its position. Even if the firm doesn't build an SoC, it might want to once again develop and license its graphics technology to mobile chip designers such as Qualcomm and Texas Instruments or risk missing out in what undoubtedly has become a key market for any firm in the semiconductor business. µ