It's been a rough year for the semiconductor industry according to iSuppli, with 59 of the 157 leading suppliers expected to see revenue declines. Overall, chip revenue is projected to fall by 2.3% (over $7 billion) in 2012 as double-digit drops plague seven of the top 20 outfits, including Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Renesas, STMicro, AMD, Freescale and Elipida. AMD appears to be the hardest hit with a 17.7% drop in on-year semiconductor revenue ($6.44 billion to 5.30 billion), pushing it down one rank to 12th place.
Despite such rocky results, iSuppli notes that at least a couple of companies have something to celebrate -- particularly Qualcomm, which witnessed a 27.2% increase in semiconductor revenue ($10.20 billion to $12.98 billion). That strong performance boosted Qualcomm's market share by one point to 4.3%, allowing it to surpass Texas Instruments and Toshiba to become the world's third largest chipmaker behind Samsung and Intel, which collectively represent over a quarter of the semiconductor revenue.
While the performance of categories like TVs and PCs has been poor, Qualcomm's success is thanks to the strong sales of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In addition to jumping three ranks in the last year, iSuppli notes that Qualcomm was in ninth place in 2010. "This six-rank ascent in two years represents the biggest increase of any major semiconductor supplier in recent history," the researcher said, adding that the company's growth should continue as wireless technology expands.
Qualcomm wasn't the only chip supplier to see a healthy boost over last year. Sony -- which could certainly use some positive vibes -- put up the year's second-best results, attaining a 20.1% growth in revenue ($5.02 billion to $5.96 billion) and jumping two positions to 11th place behind Micron and Broadcom. Sony's performance contrasts with that of other major Japanese players and is attributed to the growth of the company's CMOS image sensor business, which accounts for nearly 60% of its chip revenue.