“In early 2020, the expectation was that COVID-19 would have a negative impact across all end equipment markets, but the actual effect was more nuanced,” said Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner. “Automotive, industrial and some areas of the consumer market were hit hard by reduced enterprise and consumer spending. However, lockdowns vastly increased work from home and e-learning, and any markets that facilitated those activities benefited."
According to Norwood, "Server demand was strong as hyperscale customers, which in 2020 accounted for over 65% of server demand, rushed to add capacity to cope with extra demand during lockdowns in the first half of 2020. Additionally, strong demand for PCs from enterprises and consumers due to increased work and study from home led to strong growth in CPUs, NAND flash and DRAM.”
Intel retained its position as the No. 1 global semiconductor vendor by revenue in 2020, followed by Samsung Electronics, SK hynix and Micron. Intel’s semiconductor revenue grew 3.7%, driven by growth of its core client and server CPU businesses.
Despite a slowdown in the overall smartphone market, strong sales of 5G smartphones helped propel semiconductor companies, such as Qualcomm and MediaTek, to strong growth in 2020. The growth of 5G is offsetting the weaker system unit growth with increased semiconductor dollar content, including higher-ASP 5G chipsets and additional RF front-end components and power management ICs.
Memory proved to be the best performing device category in 2020, benefitting from the increased server build and PC and ultramobile demand from the shift to home working and learning. Worldwide memory revenue increased $13.5 billion in 2020, which accounts for 44% of the overall semiconductor revenue growth in 2020.
Within memory, NAND flash experienced the best performance with revenue growth of 23.9%, reaching $52.8 billion, up $10.2 billion from 2019. Supply was particularly limited in 2020, which caused prices to surge during the first half of 2020, limiting the overall annual price decline to a modest 2% in 2020. While demand was strong from hyperscale customers and PC OEMs, the pandemic impact did result in oversupply conditions during the second half of 2020, which tempered overall annual revenue growth.