Top Chips! Intel hits a high as our gadgets multiply

Intel has taken the top spot when it comes to semiconductor market share, making 15.6 percent of the overall chips sold in the world, according to a report from analyst firm IHS iSuppli. Intel (s intc) was in the top spot last year, but this year it managed to make more money on more products — letting it achieve a market share that’s higher than its 2001 high of 14.9 percent.
But its attempts to keep the top spot show how the chip market is changing as we go mobile and buy more electronic gear. In 2001, everyone was buying PCs to play in their now-connected homes. Sites such as Yahoo (s yhoo) and AOL (s aol) were big and services we now know and love, such as Facebook and even iTunes, weren’t even on the horizon. Enterprises, not the web, were driving the sales of servers with Intel chips inside.
And while many carried mobile phones, they were for voice calls only, with only a small portion of the population texting. BlackBerrys (s rimm) were around, but not until 2003 were they the devices many of us would recognize. The world was different and Intel’s dominance was driven from PCs and server chips.
Today’s achievement comes when the overall market for chips in 2011 was barely expanding, with sales up by a mere 1.3 percent from the year prior. With the PC business on the wane, and the server business in flux, Intel’s incredible market share wins are coming from its acquisition of Infineon’s radio business, which helps Intel get wins on mobile phones, as well as Intel’s flash memory business, which sees Intel chips put inside tablets, handsets and myriad other consumer devices. The chip business is changing to reflect the way our consumer device preferences are changing, and Intel’s trying to stay on top of it — not just with the brains inside chips, but anything else it can manage to ship.
The rankings also show that Qualcomm (s qcom) and ON Semiconductor managed some impressive growth. They were up 41.6 percent and 49.6 percent year over year, respectively. In Qualcomm’s case, the success of its application processors and mobile business were also augmented by its Atheros buy, which gave it more silicon to sell. ON makes a variety chips aimed at power management that are used in everything from cell phones to LED lighting.
And, by the way, LED lighting is getting hotter. Nichia Corp., a maker of LED diodes, saw its revenue rise by 31.4 percent, boosting it into the top 25. Check out the chart below for the full rankings.

Image courtesy of Flickr user huangjiahui.