New research has revealed that US technology giant Apple became the biggest buyer of semiconductors last year, spending more money than rival firms Samsung Electronics and Hewlett-Packard.
Research firm Gartner observed that Apple's increased semiconductor spending is the result of a number of factors, including strong demand for iPhone and iPad devices as well as the success of the MacBook Air. Gartner estimated that Apple spent a total of US$17.3 billion on semiconductors during 2011, compared to $12.8 billion during 2010.
"Apple gained a much greater share of the smartphone market and its media tablet business was also highly successful in 2011," Gartner said.
"While DRAM prices fell drastically in 2011, and many PC vendors decreased their total semiconductor demand accordingly, the success of the MacBook Air enabled Apple to increase semiconductor chip demand even in its PC business."
Overall, the research firm found that smartphones, tablets and solid-state drives were the devices that influenced spending last year.
Samsung, meanwhile, held onto its position as the second-largest semiconductor purchaser, largely due its improved sales of smartphones. Indeed, Samsung's semiconductor spending increased by 9.2 percent, reaching an impressive $16.7 billion for the year.
Hewlett-Packard, by contrast, saw its semiconductor spending fall, thanks largely to the uncertain future of the PC market. Despite the fact Hewlett-Packard remains the world's largest PC maker, shipments declined 16.2 percent year-over-year. The firm, therefore, spent a total of $16.6 billion on semiconductors during 2011, according to Gartner, which confirmed that it spent $17.6 billion the year before.
Similarly, mobile manufacturer Nokia also saw its semiconductor spending decline, falling more than 20 percent to around $9 billion. It is, therefore, the fifth-largest chip buyer, ahead of Sony and Toshiba.
Lenovo saw the strongest growth among the top five PC vendors during the fourth quarter, with shipments growing 23 percent. Semiconductor spending at the firm increased to $7.5 billion.
Cumulatively, Gartner explained that the top ten semiconductor buyers spent $105.6 billion, which is equivalent to 35 percent of semiconductor vendors' worldwide chip revenue.