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Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 03:40 pm PT (06:40 pm ET)

Apple could be top mobile processor maker by end of 2012

Apple's use of proprietary ARM-based processors in its iDevice product lines could help the company replace Intel as the world's largest mobile chip maker by the end of the year.

A forthcoming study from mobile technology research firm In-Stat claims that Apple will overtake Intel in the mobile processor business if smartphone and tablet sales continue to grow, and the change will likely take place before 2013, reports IDG News Service.

At the end of 2011, the iPhone maker shipped roughly 176 million mobile processors accounting for 13.5 percent of the market and trailed Intel by only 5 million units, which represents a narrow 0.4 percent difference in market share.

"Apple's continued success of the iPhone and iPad, as well as the stronger growth rates of the smartphone and tablet markets than PCs" will help the company catch Intel, said In-Stat Chief Technology Strategist Jim McGregor.

The study tallied the processors found in a multitude of mobile devices, including the iPod touch, handheld gaming systems like Sony's PlayStation Vita, and e-readers. Not included were desktop computers and servers.

Analysts predict that the growing tablet market, which by some estimates will reach 326 million shipments in 2015, is poised to surpass the ailing PC market.

Apple's ARM-based A-series processors are already at the heart of every iDevice sold, while Intel has only just begun to introduce its Atom chips in smartphones and tablets. The A4, dual- and single-core A5 and A5X make up the current offerings from Apple. All are designed by the Cupertino, Calif., company and manufactured by Samsung.

"The more successful Apple is, the more credibility it adds to the entire ARM camp and the more competitive the ARM camp becomes as a whole," McGregor said.