The application processors used in modern smartphones are big business. According to the analysts at Strategy Analytics, the market for those chips more than doubled over the past year and is now worth $1.68 billion. After leading the field in units shipped for several years, Texas Instruments lost the top spot to Qualcomm in the fourth quarter of 2010. Qualcomm remained ahead for the first quarter of 2011, followed by TI, Samsung, Marvell, and Nvidia.
I'm a little surprised to see Nvidia in the top five given the fact that so few smartphones actually use its Tegra SoCs. The green team nabbed a few design wins recently, though, and I can't really think of another company that might slot into fifth place. Strategy Analytics' press release provides little in the way or raw numbers, so it's hard to know whether Nvidia just squeezed into the top five or if it's aggressively climbing the ladder. I can't help but wonder if the analysts are simply counting processor shipments and not sorting out those meant for tablets.
The baseband cellular silicon that rides shotgun alongside an application processor in smartphones represents an even bigger market: $3.5 billion according to the analyst firm. Qualcomm took the top spot in this realm, as well. Broadcom and Intel are reportedly on the rise, but Strategy Analytics doesn't provide actual rankings. It does, however, say that Intel's baseband business more than doubled its revenue between the first quarter of 2011 and the same quarter last year.
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