Worldwide semiconductor revenue grew 0.9 percent from 2010, reaching $302 billion in 2011, according to preliminary results by IT research firm Gartner. After a strong start to the year, worries about the strength of the macroeconomy slowed equipment and semiconductor orders in 2011, the report found.
Intel held the No. 1 position for the 20th consecutive year, and 2011 marks the company's highest-ever market share at 16.9 percent. Its previous high was in 1998 when it commanded 16.3 percent of the market. Intel saw strong growth in the first half of the year as the PC market stocked up inventory in anticipation of a strong second half of the year, and its server products Westmere and Nahelem had strong years. The company's revenue for 2011 includes the wireless business unit (BU) purchased from Infineon in the first quarter of the year, a transaction adding about $1.4 billion to Intel's revenue in 2011.
"The industry did well in the early part of the year, in many cases entering the year with backlog from an exuberant 2010," said Stephan Ohr, semiconductor research director at Gartner. "But uncertainty about the state of the macroeconomy set in at the midpoint of the year. Consumers held off purchases, and infrastructure expansion plans languished as governments resisted assuming more debt. Equipment inventories began to build as the year progressed, with resulting ripples throughout the semiconductor industry."
In second place, Samsung Electronics saw its revenue grow slightly above the industry average despite its exposure to the declining DRAM market. Samsung's NAND business saw healthy revenue growth, but this was broadly in line with the overall NAND market growth. Samsung's non-memory business was by far the strongest growth area for the company, with application-specific devices, particularly wireless applications processors. The strongest growth came from Samsung's relationship with Apple, where it is supplying the A5 processor used in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 tablet.
The report noted Texas Instruments, in the No. 3 position, has arguably the strongest manufacturing capability in the analog semiconductor industry-a consequence of acquisitions made in 2010. However, uncertainties in the macroeconomic environment affected revenue for all analog suppliers as orders slowed in the third quarter of 2011 and again in the fourth quarter. The slowdown for power management devices-important in the construction of new data centers, and in the deployment of personal computers-was not as severe as the slowdown in amplifiers and data converters.
As a group, the processor makers-Intel, Qualcomm, Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia-outperformed the rest of the industry. Intel's server business grew despite slowdowns in PC production, Qualcomm was carried by ongoing shifts to 4G and LTE mobile services, and Nvidia's Tegra platform supported tablet makers hoping to capture some of the enthusiasm associated with tablet PCs.
Memory makers among the top 25 semiconductor suppliers-Hynix, Micron and Elpida-showed revenue declines as a consequence of DRAM price declines and loss of market share in the DRAM space. Samsung's growth of 3.7 percent growth was carried as much by mobile phone application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) as by memory. SanDisk grew 33.5 percent on demand for flash memory, Gartner reported.