The FINANCIAL — Samsung Electronics and Apple remained the top two semiconductor chip buyers in 2017, representing 19.5 percent of the total worldwide market, according to Gartner, Inc. Samsung and Apple together consumed $81.8 billion of semiconductors in 2017, an increase of more than $20 billion from 2016.
“Samsung Electronics and Apple not only retained their respective No. 1 and No. 2 positions, they also radically increased their share of semiconductor spending through 2017,” said Masatsune Yamaji, principal research analyst at Gartner “These two companies have held on to the top positions since 2011 and they continue to exert significant influence on technology and price trends for the whole semiconductor industry.”
Eight of the top 10 companies in 2016 remained in the top 10 in 2017, with the top five chip buyers remaining in the same positions (see Table 1). LG Electronics returned to the top 10 and was joined by newcomer Western Digital, which grew its semiconductor spending by $1.7 billion in 2017. BBK Electronics rose one place to sixth position, increasing its semiconductor spending by $5.7 billion.
A significant price increase of DRAM and NAND flash memory had a big impact on semiconductor buyers’ ranking through 2017. Most original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), even the big ones, could not avoid the risk of a memory chip shortage and rise of memory prices through 2017. Supply shortages occurred not just in the memory IC market, but also in other semiconductor chip markets, such as microcontrollers and discrete, as well as in the passive component market, which benefited the suppliers but troubled the OEMs. On the other hand, successful OEMs are often differentiating their products with their own captive silicon solutions. The increase in OEMs’ captive chip spending is a great risk for commercial chip vendors’ future growth.
Semiconductor spending by the top 10 OEMs increased significantly, and their share reached 40 percent of the total semiconductor market in 2017, up from 31 percent 10 years ago. This trend is expected to continue, and Gartner predicts that, by 2021, the top 10 OEMs will account for more than 45 percent of total global semiconductor spending.
“With the top 10 semiconductor chip buyers commanding an increasing share of the market, technology product marketing leaders at chip vendors must focus on their leading customers,” said Mr. Yamaji. “They will need to prioritize direct sales and technical support resources to these top customers by exploiting online technical support capabilities and outsourcing the support for long-tail customers to third-party partners and distributors.”