Boom in RAM helped chip sales grow 7.9 per cent in 2014, as Gartner lists Top 10 vendors

Intel held on to its chip industry leadership in 2014, but it faces a challenge from Samsung and, in the long run, perhaps from Qualcomm, as smartphones and tablets compete against traditional PCs.

Thanks to booming memory chip markets, worldwide semiconductor revenues grew by 7.9 percent to $339.8 billion last year, according to preliminary numbers that Gartner released today (Tuesday). The top 25 chip vendors did even better, with revenues up by 11.7 percent compared with 2013.

Things didn't go quite as well for Intel, the biggest chip manufacturer by revenues, in spite of the PC industry's mini-recovery. However, it managed to grow sales by 4.6 percent in 2014, which contrasts with the 10.1 percent decline it suffered in 2013.

According to Gartner, "Intel continued to gain market share from AMD" in laptops and desktops, and it was also "on pace to reach its goal of 40 million tablet processors in 2014, although these processors are being shipped at significantly discounted prices with incentives." Many of these chips are appearing in 7in and 8in Windows 8.1 tablets that cost less than $100/£100.

Intel held its place as the No 1 semiconductor company for the 23rd consecutive year, with 15.0 percent of the market, though it remains to be seen how much longer its lead will last. Samsung, the No 2 chip vendor, grew revenues by 15.1 percent last year, and it's currently spending $15 billion on a new fab in South Korea to expand sales. Qualcomm took third place with growth of 11.5 percent as its Snapdragon processor continued to dominate the smartphone market.

Gartner Semiconductor Revenue, Worldwide, 2014
However, Gartner said: "SK Hynix and Micron Technology benefited the most from the strong memory market, with the strongest growth of the top 10 vendors". Micron Technology's sales grew by 41.0 percent and SK Hynix's by 26.1 percent. DRAM chips accounted for about 80 percent of SK Hynix's revenues and about 70 percent of Micron's, with Micron shifting more production to NAND (Flash memory) chips.

With STMicroelectronics and Renesas Electronics losing ground - both saw sales decline by around 9 percent - we could well see MediaTek in the 2015 table. If so, it will be the first Taiwanese company to make the Top 10.

Finally, for AMD fans, the company saw its chip revenues slide by more than 9 percent to $4.67 billion, and it came 15th in the table with a market share of 1.4 percent.

Gartner provides more information about the top 25 semiconductor vendors in its latest report, Market Share Analysis: Preliminary Total Semiconductor Revenue, Worldwide, 2014.

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