Chip forecast: tablet processors rule, DRAM makes a comeback


Microprocessor units for mobile phones and tablets are still the biggest drivers of growth in semiconductor demand, but this year’s growth rates are expected to be down slightly from 2012. According to ICS Insights, the market for tablet MPUs is forecast to grow 50% this year, much more quickly than any other part of the semiconductor market. Last year shipments of MPUs for tablets were up 60%, according to ICS Insights.

Processors for mobile phones are forecast to increase by 28% this year, versus 41% last year. This is consistent with forecasts for growth of the overall market, which call for little to no growth in the mobile phone market, but a high rate of smartphone adoption as users upgrade. Smartphones often have more than one mobile processor unit, for example a CPU (central processing unit) and a GPU (graphics processing unit.)

After two years of declines, the market for DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips is forecast to grow 9% this year, primarily due to higher prices. The recent downturn in that market has already forced several companies out of the market. The expectation of a turnaround is reinforced by another recent report from IHS iSuppli, which calls for a 30% increase in DRAM shipments this year.

Mobile DRAM is an increasingly important part of the DRAM market, accounting for more than a quarter of revenue last year by some estimates. Mobile DRAM prices tend to be firmer than those of “commodity” DRAM for personal computers.

ICS Insights is forecasting double digit growth for two types of chipsets that are not part of wireless networks but nonetheless benefit from increasing mobile traffic. Wired Telecom—Special Purpose Logic/MPR is expected to grow 13% and and Wired Telecom—Application-Specific Analog is forecast to grow 11%. ICS says this is because of the increasing demands on the cable networks that provide backhaul for wireless networks.

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Martha DeGrasse

Wireless Martha DeGrasse has been creating content for RCR Wireless News since 2011. Recent feature reports include Building Tomorrow's Neworks, Outdoor DAS and Small Cell Case Studies, Wireless Infrastructure Service Company Review, and Investing in HetNets. (All of these can be found by clicking on Reports at the top of this page.) At RCR, Martha also developed the 5 Things to Know Today series and the Mobile Minute. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York. Martha left Dow Jones to move to Austin, Texas, where she managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Follow her on Twitter @mdegrasseRCR