Apple now world's largest semiconductor buyer

The company spent $17.5 billion on semiconductors last year, a leap of nearly 80 percent from 2009, says IHS iSuppli. Yes, it does have something to do with all those iPhones and iPads.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
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Apple leads the way in semiconductor spending, IHS iSuppli has revealed.
Apple leads the way in semiconductor spending, IHS iSuppli has revealed. IHS iSuppli

Apple is the easily outstripping all other hardware makers in semiconductor spending, a new report from IHS iSuppli has found.

According to the research firm, Apple spent $17.5 billion on semiconductors in 2010, representing a whopping 79.6 percent increase over the $9.7 billion it spent in 2009. That year, Apple was ranked third among semiconductor buyers behind Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Samsung.

And with that leap in spending, IHS iSuppli said, Apple now finds itself--"for the first time ever"--the largest buyer of semiconductors among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) worldwide.

This time around, HP finds itself in the second spot with $15.2 billion spent on semiconductors last year. Samsung, Dell, and Nokia rounded out the top five by spending $13.9 billion, $11 billion, and $8.3 billion, respectively.

Apple's meteoric rise in spending is due mainly to the company's iPhone and iPad, IHS iSuppli said. In 2010, Apple dedicated 61 percent of its semiconductor spending to its mobile devices, while the remaining costs went to its computers. HP, on the other hand, spent 82 percent of its cash on desktops, notebooks, and servers.

Chances are, Apple's spending mix won't change anytime soon. At the Worldwide Developers Conference this week, the company announced that sales of iOS-based devices continue to soar. And so far, Apple has sold 200 million iOS-based products around the world.

As that figure grows, IHS iSuppli expects more big things from Apple in the semiconductor market. The research firm said today that it expects Apple's semiconductor spending to increase again in 2011 to $22.4 billion. HP's, on the other hand, is expected to fall to $14.8 billion. Samsung, the research firm said, will spend $14.3 billion on semiconductors this year.