The mobile processor market is set to reach 4 billion units by 2014, market research firm In-Stat reported Oct. 26. Mobile device growth, said the firm, is reshaping the high-tech industry, and with rising sales of smartphones and converged devices is coming an increased need for everything from silicon chipsets to services.
Moreover, the pronounced growth is expected to create room for a number of processor architectures to flourish.
"Currently, two architectures, ARM and x86, dominate the low- and high-end of the mobile market, respectively, and are battling it out for the mid-range convergence devices like e-readers, tablets and netbooks," said In-Stat Chief Technology Strategist Jim McGregor in a statement.
"However, other architectures, such as MIPS and SH, are equally suited to power mobile [systems on chips]," McGregor continued. "As more emphasis is placed on the OS and mobile applications, the use of a particular processor architecture or instruction set is likely to become less important. The differentiating factors become price, power and performance."
The largest opportunity for mobile processors today and going forward, states the report, are feature phones and smartphones. Tablets, however, represent the fastest-growing market segment for mobile processors, with a growth rate of 123.6 percent expected through 2014.
The Apple iPad, which resuscitated the tablet market, for now, comprises the vast majority of the market and is enjoying sales well beyond initial expectations. In an Oct. 15 report, research firm Gartner forecast media tablet sales-driven by the iPad-to reach 19.4 million units in 2010. With tablets from Dell, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Research In Motion and Lenovo, among others, expected to join the iPad on retailer shelves by early 2011, Gartner expects shipments to jump to 54.7 million in 2011, before rising to 208 million by 2014.
The trend toward integrated baseband modems will become a critical differentiator for mobile processors, adds the In-Stat report, which additionally expects nearly 75 percent of mobile processors to be multicore by 2014 and for an even higher percentage to have an integrated baseband.
"While there will be some convergence of devices and usage models," states the report, "consumer patterns and the history of the high-tech market indicate that the total number of mobile devices will continue to expand."