Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat/MDR reported that the world market for Wi-Fi hardware surpassed $1 billion in quarterly revenues by the fourth quarter of 2003.
The researchers said the market is undergoing a shift similar to the one experienced in the Ethernet market as that technology grew. Researchers found that embedded mini PCI Wi-Fi adapter cards are displacing Wi-Fi PC cards in the market.
"We used to have Ethernet cards, and now Ethernet is in everything," In-Stat/MDR analyst Norm Bogen said.
Researchers said they expect the trend to continue over the next five years, projecting that the number of embedded Wi-Fi clients—including mobile PCs, PDAs and phones—that are shipped will grow at a 66.2 percent compound annual growth rate to 226 million units by 2008.
According to In-Stat/MDR, removable Wi-Fi PC cards held 58.3 percent of the market in 2002. But by 2003, their market share declined to 38.8 percent, while the share of Wi-Fi mini PCI cards rose to 49.1 percent. According to Bogen, the mini cards enabled most of the Wi-Fi-enabled laptops that shipped last year.
Most of the growth came in Wi-Fi-enabled notebooks, as 55 percent of the 32.1 million notebook PCs shipped in 2003 contained embedded Wi-Fi adapters.
The report, called "Wi-Fi Inside: The Embedded Wi-Fi Paradigm," analyzes and forecasts the worldwide Wi-Fi market, including the products and direction of major vendors, from 2003 through 2008.
Bogen acknowledged that Intels aggressive "Centrino Inside" marketing campaign for its Wi-Fi-enabled Centrino chips was a "key driving factor in terms of laptops." Intel launched its campaign in spring 2003, not long after releasing the Centrino chip.
But according to Bogen, PDAs and smart phones are beginning to contribute significantly to the trend. "Its basically that the semiconductor manufacturers are gearing up to enable that capability," he said, comparing the data to the trend in the Ethernet market a few years back.