The popularity of Apple's iPad and iPhone is driving the shift of chip spending to wireless from computers, according to IHS-iSuppli.
Global spending by the world's top device makers on chips for wireless products amounted to $58.6 billion in 2011, up 14.5 percent from $51.2 billion in 2010, according to IHS iSuppli. As a result, spending for computers was topped by wireless, which became the world's largest semiconductor spending segment for device makers--aka, OEMs or original equipment manufacturers--in 2011.
Though this is not the first time wireless spending has exceeded that of computer-related spending (it happened in 2009), 2011 "does mark the beginning of a period when the balance of semiconductor spending will shift decisively toward wireless and away from computing," IHS-iSuppli said.
In 2013, OEM wireless spending is projected to jump to $72.9 billion, while computers will remain flat at $53.4 billion, the market research firm said.
While mobile handsets continue to account for most of the wireless semiconductor segment sales, tablets--a relatively new device category--are a big factor behind wireless spending growth, iSuppli said.
Among tablet suppliers, Apple in 2011 spent more than any other OEM on semiconductors--a whopping $4.6 billion. Samsung was a distant second after Apple with $603.2 million, followed by HTC with $199.2 million.
Computer semiconductor spending in 2011 rose by just 4 percent to $53.7 billion, up from $51.8 billion in 2010.
"The market for desktops and notebooks has stumbled in the shadow of smartphones and tablets, whose portability and computer-like features have usurped the position of the once-mighty PCs," said Wenlie Ye, an analyst at IHS-iSuppli.
Total semiconductor spending among the industry's major OEMs for all application markets in 2011 reached $240.6 billion, up approximately 5 percent from $230.1 billion in 2010, according to IHS-iSuppli.