Apple could add the title of “World’s Largest Mobile Processor Company” to its already impressive list of accomplishments by years end, according to a study due to be released by In-Stat later this week.
Apple was the world’s second largest mobile processor company behind Intel in 2011, benefitting from growing smartphone and tablet shipments and a meltdown in the PC market, according to In-Stat. If that trend holds and Apple’s iPhone and iPad shipments continue to grow at an unprecedented pace, Apple will likely overtake Intel as the world’s largest mobile processor company by the end of this year.
Apple does not have a large gap to overcome. The company last year shipped about 176 million processors in devices such as the iPad and iPhone, representing a 13.5 percent market share. Intel took the top spot with 181 million processors shipping in mobile products such as laptops, a 13.9 percent market share.
“Apple’s continued success of the iPhone and iPad, as well as the stronger growth rates of the smartphone and tablet markets than PCs” will help catch up to Intel, said Jim McGregor , chief technology strategist at In-Stat and author of the report.
Apple designs chips with ARM processors, used in most smartphones and tablets. While Intel’s processors are used in some tablets, they have virtually no presence in smartphones. Intel is pinning its hopes on the low-power Atom chip code-named Medfield, which is to be used in tablets and handsets by Lenovo, Motorola, and ZTE later this year.
As mobile devices grow, the emergence of Apple as a processor company will matter even more to a company like Intel, which is struggling to establish a presence in the smartphone and tablet market, McGregor said. The smartphone and tablet shipments are already outpacing servers and PCs combined in units shipped, and the gap will grow even greater in the coming years, McGregor said.
While there are rumors of Apple switching over to ARM based chips in the MacBook Air at some point, analysts say the possibility is remote in the near future due to technical and performance issues on ARM.
But Intel is being proactive by pouring millions of dollars into development of ultrabooks, the thin-and-light Windows laptops that PC makers are pitching as an alternative to the MacBook Air.
“Why do you think Intel is putting so much into ultrabooks? It is not only to compete against tablets, but to offer competition to Apple, which could switch to the company’s own products eventually,” McGregor said.
“It will interesting to see how things play out over the next few years, but it will be the consumers that ultimately decide the fates of the companies and technologies involved,” McGregor said.