Its legal troubles notwithstanding, Qualcomm has supplanted Texas Instruments as the world's leading supplier of integrated circuits for mobile devices, according to data from market research firm iSuppli.
This reshuffling marks the end of, or at least a pause in, Texas Instruments' long reign at the top of the mobile semiconductor market. The first quarter of 2007, according to iSuppli senior analyst Francis Sideco, "marks the first time that TI has not occupied the leadership position in this area since iSuppli began tracking handset market share in 2004."
Despite facing a ban on U.S. imports of devices containing certain of its chips, Qualcomm has been enjoying steady sales growth over the last year as advanced handsets using its 3G technology for CDMA networks make their way into the market. Qualcomm's first-quarter supremacy, said Sideco, came largely as a result of its dominance of the market for devices with high-speed EV-DO connectivity, a market in which TI doesn't sell products.
TI suffered another blow on Monday when it reported a lower quarterly profit and offered a disappointing revenue forecast for the third quarter. Qualcomm is expected to display healthy earnings growth when it reports its quarterly results tomorrow.
The U.S. International Trade Commission last month banned the import or sale of phones with certain Qualcomm chips that were found to infringe a patent held by rival chipmaker Broadcom. The ban includes new phone models that weren't already being imported by June 7.
Saying that it didn't have jurisdiction in the case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last Friday declined to strike down the ITC ruling; Qualcomm executives hope that the Bush administration will veto the import limits. A final decision is expected next week.
Qualcomm also is locked in a legal struggle with Nokia over patents for W-CDMA networks, which are generally used for the European-developed GSM networks. Qualcomm has said it expects to spend $200 million on litigation and other legal costs this year -- a cost executives say they're willing to shoulder.
So far, apparently, the cost has been worth it. Sideco of iSuppli doesn't expect the ongoing legal battles to affect Qualcomm sales in the near term. "They are definitely positioned to continue their momentum," he said.
Qualcomm enjoyed a 2.4% increase in revenue in the first quarter from sales of wireless integrated circuits, to $1.26 billion from $1.23 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006. Texas Instruments saw its revenue from mobile chipsets drop from $1.24 billion to $1.15 billion in the first quarter, a 7.1% decline in revenue.
Qualcomm has already increased its guidance for its quarterly report, citing "stronger than expected chipset demand across our product portfolio and higher CDMA2000 handset shipments."