SAN FRANCISCO—Market research firm Gartner Inc. Monday (Dec. 19) trimmed its forecast for 2011 semiconductor sales, saying its preliminary analysis shows chip revenue will grow by slightly less than 1 percent this year.
After a strong start to the year, worries about the strength of the macroeconomy slowed equipment and semiconductor orders in 2011, Gartner (Stamford, Conn.) said.
"The industry did well in the early part of the year, in many cases entering the year with backlog from an exuberant 2010," said Stephan Ohr, semiconductor research director at Gartner. "But uncertainty about the state of the macroeconomy set in at the midpoint of the year."
Ohr said consumers held off purchases and infrastructure expansion plans languished as governments resisted assuming more debt. "Equipment inventories began to build as the year progressed, with resulting ripples throughout the semiconductor industry," Ohr said.
Intel Corp. will be the leader in semiconductor sales for the 20th consecutive year, Gartner said. The firm added that Intel's share of the total chip market—about 16.9 percent—will be the highest the firm has ever totaled, eclipsing the 16.3 percent of total semiconductor sales it had in 1998. Intel's 2011 projected sales total of $41.2 billion includes sales from the former wireless business unit of Infineon AG, which Intel bought in the first quarter.
Intel saw strong growth in the first half of the year as the PC market stocked up inventory in anticipation of a strong second half of the year, Gartner said. Intel posted a strong year for its server products Westmere and Nahelem, according to Gartner.
As a group, processor makers—including Intel, Qualcomm Inc., Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Nvidia Corp.—outperformed the rest of the semiconductor industry. Intel's server business grew despite slowdowns in PC production, Gartner said, while Qualcomm was carried by ongoing shifts to 4G and LTE mobile services. Nvidia's Tegra platform supported tablet makers hoping to capture some of the enthusiasm associated with tablet PCs, according to Gartner.
Memory makers among the top 25 semiconductor suppliers—including Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Micron Technology Inc. and Elpida Memory Inc.— showed revenue declines as a consequence of DRAM price declines and loss of market share in the DRAM space, according to Garnter.
No. 2 semiconductor supplier Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd—also the No. 1 memory chip vendor—posted 3.7 percent growth in chip sales in 2011, Gartner said, but its growth was carried as much by mobile phone ASICs as by memory, Gartner said. Samsung's strongest growth came from its relationship with Apple Inc., where it is supplying the A5 processor used in the iPhone 4s and iPad2 media tablet.
SanDisk Corp. grew 33.5 percent on demand for flash memory, according to Gartner.