Gartner: Apple was top semiconductor buyer in 2011

Apple has gotten big lately. Really big. So big that, last summer, it briefly became the highest valued company by market capitalization in the entire world.

It's no surprise, then, that Gartner's preliminary semiconductor market data suggests Apple was the world's top semiconductor buyer in 2011. Apple came out ahead of HP, which was top dog in 2010, and Samsung, which is still in the number-two spot.

Here are the top-five rankings excised from Gartner's full chart. The monetary figures relate to the "total silicon content in all products designed by a certain electronic equipment manufacturer." Gartner calls this number the design TAM, where TAM is short for total available market.

Company 2010
design TAM
design TAM
Growth Share
3 1 Apple $12.8B $17.3B 34.6% 5.7%
2 2 Samsung Electronics $15.3B $16.7B 9.2% 5.5%
1 3 HP $17.6B $16.6B -5.5% 5.5%
5 4 Dell $10.5B $9.8B -6.7% 3.2%
4 5 Nokia* $11.3B $9.0B -20.1% 3.0%

Gartner attributes Apple's surge to its still-growing presence in the smartphone market, booming iPad sales, and the MacBook Air, which "enabled Apple to increase semiconductor chip demand even in its PC business." Other PC vendors purportedly decreased their demand because of shrinking memory prices. (Remember, Gartner is looking at money spent, not units, so cheaper memory means lower numbers.)

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