Market researcher iSuppli has published a report looking into the biggest buyers of semiconductors among OEMs and it reveals that Apple is by far the biggest.
It only overtook HP and Samsung for top spot last year, but now it's is pulling away. Apple spent a staggering $17.5 billion on semiconductors last year, a near doubling of its 2009 spend of $9.7 billion. The study estimates Apple will fork out more like $23 billion on chips this year. Apple was in sixth place in 2008.
"Apple's surge to leadership in semiconductor spending in 2010 was driven by the overwhelming success of its wireless products, namely the iPhone and the iPad," said analyst Wenlie Ye. "These products consume enormous quantities of NAND flash memory, which is also found in the Apple iPod. Because of this, Apple in 2010 was the world's No. 1 purchaser of NAND flash."
The report points out the obvious - that Apple and HP are quite different companies - with the majority of HP's spend going on PC-related products, while Apple mostly makes mobile devices. The halo effect that moves the owner of one Apple product to invest in others is also a big factor in Apple's favour, and has helped Mac sales.
Apple makes the SoCs inside its mobile devices itself, and it's not clear whether that still counts as 'buying'. If it doesn't then these figures are even more remarkable.