Boosted by iPhone and iPad sales, Apple is now the world's largest semiconductor buyer, a marketing research company reported today.
IHS iSuppli reported that Apple bought $17.5 billion in semiconductors in 2010, a 79.6 percent increase from 2009, the largest for any original equipment manufacturer. Hewlett-Packard was the largest buyer in 2009, followed by Samsung.
The rise is mostly attributed to Apple's iPhone and iPads, whose sales soared while HP's mostly PC and its peripherals market plummeted.
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Apple is more a wireless devices maker than a computer maker. The company spent approximately 61 percent of its semiconductor budget in 2010 on wireless products such as iPhones and iPads. In contrast, 82 percent of Hewlett-Packard’s 2010 semiconductor spending was dedicated to computer products like desktops, notebooks and servers.
This worked to Apple’s benefit, with the smart phone and tablet markets massively outgrowing the computer segment in 2010. Smart phone shipments in 2010 rose 62 percent, while tablets exploded by more than 900 percent, driven by the introduction of Apple’s iPad.
In contrast, global PC shipments grew a relatively weak 14.2 percent in 2010.
As the focus on mobile computing grows, companies without a mobile strategy will be less relevant and apparently less profitable. That said, don't feel badly for Samsung, because its numbers may not be telling you the whole story. Apple decided to buy many of its mobile components from Samsung, so while its parts may technically be Apple-owned they are likely Samsung-manufactured -- which makes its lawsuit against the company for copying the iPhone and iPad a little more silly.