2010: The year Apple also became a chip company

The market share numbers for chipmakers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices changed little in 2010. But the entry of Apple into the market is proving to be highly disruptive.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

While changes in the ancient market-share rivalry between chipmakers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices were unremarkable in 2010, the emergence of Apple as a force was anything but.

The iPad and iPhone are making Apple a force in the chip market.
The iPad and iPhone are making Apple a force in the chip market. Apple

"The competitive state of affairs remained very much the same two-horse race it has been for more than 20 years, with Intel firmly in the lead and AMD a distant second," IHS iSuppli said in a research note today.

Intel finished 2010 with an 81 percent share of global microprocessor revenue, up a scant 0.4 percentage points from its 80.6 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, AMD ended the year with an 11.4 percent share, down 0.8 points from 12.2 percent in 2009, keeping it in second place, iSuppli said.

With that out of the way, we have the much more interesting rise of Apple. "The year 2010 was marked by the rise of a new platform: the media tablet, led by Apple's iPad, which employed a [chip] at its heart designed by Apple," said iSuppli.

Though the Apple A4 processor and recently announced A5 chip are made by Samsung Electronics, that's no different than, for instance, Qualcomm-branded chips, which are fabricated by Asia-based contract chip manufacturers.

The note continues. "IHS believes unit shipments of media tablets soared to 17.4 million in 2010, up from zero in 2009, with levels expected to grow to more than 240 million units in 2015."

240 million is a very big number and portends seismic shifts in the chip market--a lot of that potentially coming at the expense of Intel and AMD, which make chips primarily for PCs.

iSuppli also noted that most Intel and AMD chips in 2010 included built-in graphics circuitry, a trend that will continue in 2011 and beyond.