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Smartphone Processor Market up for Grabs

by Sravan Kundojjala | Aug 27, 2010

As smartphone shipments grow as a percentage of total mobile phone shipments, processor suppliers also have to revise their strategies to tap into this growth. Who is well-positioned? We think baseband vendors are well positioned to capture this growth given their leverage to work their existing OEM relations. To make the transition from the featurephone world to the smartphone world, processor vendors have to develop application processors and multimedia processors in addition to cellular baseband processors.

The game is no longer about slim modems. Based on our research many of the leading baseband vendors are missing the growth opportunities in the smartphone segment. Estimates in our recent report entitled “Can Baseband Vendors Translate Their Success into the Smartphone Market?” reveal that the cumulative smartphone apps processor unit shipment share of Qualcomm, ST-Ericsson, MediaTek, Infineon and Broadcom was just 21 % in 2009 despite their cumulative overall baseband unit shipment share of about 65%. What this means is that baseband vendors have not been too successful in converting their baseband design-wins into apps processor design-wins so far.

A chip vendor's success in the smartphone world comes from scoring design-wins at top-tier smartphone OEMs and supporting software platforms that have market momentum. This is one of the reasons why baseband vendors missed the smartphone boat as many of them were focusing on feature phone and basic phone segments. We think there is enough room for dynamism in the smartphone processor market as new entrants like Intel come into the value chain. If Intel acquires Infineon, as rumoured, that could put more pressure on stand-alone processor vendors, such as NVIDIA, that currently lack baseband products. Interesting times ahead. We’ll be watching how baseband vendors expand their value offering to crack the smartphone and other emerging devices markets.

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