Media tablets and e-readers lift semiconductors 2,000pc

6 Apr 2011

The advent of tablet computers and e-book readers have been a goldmine for the chip industry, driving semiconductor revenues 2,000pc to US$3.3bn in 2010.

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have rushed to bring new products to market less than eight months after the iPad launched, according to the latest consumer semiconductor study from IDC.

With the arrival of Android Honeycomb, dual core processors and increased bandwidth, IDC expects media tablet and e-reader semiconductor revenues to grow by 120pc year-over-year in 2011.

“The opportunity for semiconductors in media tablet and e-readers has exploded and semiconductor suppliers are scrambling to bring to market semiconductor and software platforms to enable these products,” said Michael J Palma, research manager for consumer semiconductor research at IDC.

“Beyond semiconductors, these suppliers are also providing OEMs with much of the system software, as well as support for access into app stores, which is helping to dramatically shorten product design cycles.”

Tablets are defined by their connectivity, user interface and battery life.

Semiconductor firms provide the technology to enable these features, with touchscreen controllers and sensors providing the rich user experience, baseband modems, Wi-Fi chipsets and related integrated circuits (ICs) providing connectivity; specialised semiconductors managing the battery life and the overall device managed by application processors (APUs).

The appeal of media tablets

At 99pc share of APU shipments, the ARM processor architecture dominated this market in 2010 and is expected to lose only a few points in 2011 as the MIPs and x86 architectures struggle for a role in the market.

Media tablets and e-readers are two devices that share components but whose bills of materials (BOM) are optimised for very different functions. The 2010 average tablet semiconductor BOM was nearly one and one half times as much as the BOM for e-readers.

Storage and memory ICs accounted for 40pc of the semiconductor revenue opportunity in 2010, but falling prices for Flash and DRAM will drive system BOM cost reductions through 2015, leading these components’ share of semiconductor costs to fall nearly in half over the forecast period.

The appeal of media tablets will drive the semiconductor revenue opportunity to a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31pc.

“For the next several years, we will see rapid innovation cycles for products launched into the marketplace and semiconductor suppliers will continue to satisfy evolving end-user requirements over the coming years,” added Palma.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years