The semiconductor industry in 2015: New nodes and upstart companies fuel a dynamic market
2015 is likely to be a particularly critical year on multiple fronts, for multiple semiconductor companies. There’s a great deal of potential disruption and meaningful product improvements coming down the pipe. Let’s take this time to look at the big semiconductor trends we expect to see over the next 12 months.
The glorious mobile mess
The mobile market has changed a great deal in the past 12 months, and the shifts aren’t over. From inside the United States, it’s been largely business-as-usual in the smartphone and tablet business. Worldwide, it’s a different story. New players are rising to the forefront, established companies are snapping up market share, and the end result is a reshuffling of vendor share — and vendor profits.
Data courtesy of IDC
Samsung has lost more than a third of its market share, while Apple has given up almost 10% of its own. Newcomer Xiaomi has five times the market share it did in 2012, while Lenovo and LG have picked up substantially in the same period. Most of Samsung’s losses, however, have been to a broad swath of vendors in new markets, and this same trend is clear across the industry. The “Others” column grew substantially in 2014. Samsung has responded by trimming its product divisions by up to 30%.
Intel grew its share of the tablet market significantly, and may have even taken a larger share of the revenue pie from Qualcomm in the back half of the year — though this doesn’t include the fact that Intel is selling devices at a loss. Overall growth in tablets has slowed substantially, however, thanks to the shift towards larger “phablet” devices and thanks to a slower refresh cycle.
Even as the worldwide markets shift, new technology is coming online. Qualcomm will launch its first 20nm Snapdragon hardware in the next few weeks, the Snapdragon 810 (early reports claimed it was used in the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, but that’s now been ruled out by Samsung itself). The Snapdragon 810 combines a quad-core Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53 cluster on 20nm technology with an associated 20nm modem that’s capable of multiple advanced LTE features. Power consumption and performance should both improve, and the Adreno 430 GPU is expected to be significantly more powerful than the Snapdragon 805’s Adreno 420. We’ll also see the wide debut and availability of Android 5.0 “Lollipop” next year, and the associated performance benefits. Qualcomm is still working on a successor to Krait, based on its own architecture, but with an unknown launch date.
Mobile phones and tablets should jump ahead technologically, but with companies like MediaTek, RockChip, and Allwinner gunning for design wins of their own, we could see further competition and sharp price drops throughout the year. Intel’s decision to back a budget chip design at TSMC and to partner with a company like Rockchip may end up being a very smart move.
Later in the year we should see 14nm hardware as well, though that’s expected to mostly be a Samsung shift, and there are rumors swirling about whether or not the company is having yield problems. Apple is currently the only company widely expected to make the jump to 14nm in 2015 and it’s entirely possible that they’ve locked up the first production runs from both Samsung and possibly GlobalFoundries. TSMC is expected to follow Samsung at the 16nm node, but not until the tail end of the year.
Next page: Intel and AMD…
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