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Apple now the world's biggest buyer of semiconductors

Gartner announced today that Apple became the world's biggest buyer of semiconductors in 2011, leaping ahead of both Samsung Electronics and Hewlett-Packard. As Macworld notes, PC and phone vendors' semiconductor spending is related to sales of their finished products.

Apple's spending on semiconductors was a whopping US$17.3 billion in 2011, up from $12.8 billion the year before. Samsung was in second place at $16.7 billion and saw a growth rate of about 9.2 percent due in part to its increasing sales of Android-based smartphones.

Not surprisingly, several manufacturers who are seeing the effects of Apple's growth showed drops in semiconductor spending. The fragile PC market hit HP, which spent $16.6 billion during 2011, down from $17.6 billion in 2010.

Nokia saw an even more precipitous drop in their chip buying, dropping over 20 percent to about $9 billion. Gartner notes that the top ten semiconductor buyers spent about $105.6 billion in 2011 altogether, about 35 percent of worldwide chip revenue.

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