In 2010, the semiconductor spending crown belonged to Hewlett-Packard, more than logical considering HP is the world's largest PC manufacturer. But in 2011, it was Apple that took the No. 1 spot by spending nearly $17.3 billion on semiconductors, up a whopping 34.6 percent over what it spent in 2010 and enough to grab hold of 5.7 percent of the total semiconductor market, according to data released by market research firm Gartner.
"The major growth drivers in 2011 were smartphones, media tablets and solid-state drives (SSDs)," said Masatsune Yamaji, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Those companies that gained share in the smartphone market, such as Apple, Samsung Electronics and HTC, increased their semiconductor demand, while those who lost market share in this segment, such as Nokia and LG Electronics, decreased their semiconductor demand. Media tablets were also a growth driver for the semiconductor market throughout 2011."
It's a fairly tight race (if you want to call it that) among the top three semiconductor purchasers, with Samsung (No. 2) having spent $16.68 billion in 2011 (up 9.2 percent), and HP (No. 3) having spent $16.61 billion (down 5.5 percent). There's a sharp dropoff in spending after that, with Dell taking up spot No. 4 by having spent $9.79 billion.