The volume of laptops sold every year is growing rapidly. The penetration of Wi-Fi into the laptop market is on a similar upward curve. Add the essential ingredient of an 802.11 a/g Mini-PCI solution, mix in a big dose of marketing clout, and the result is that Intel has, in recent months, been steadily taking market share away from market leaders Broadcom and Atheros.
The conclusion, according to Philip Solis, ABI Research's senior analyst of wireless connectivity, is that in the most recent quarter Intel grabbed the top spot in terms of Wi-Fi IC market share.
"Before Intel introduced their 802.11g and a/g products," says Solis, "Broadcom and Atheros had most of the market for 802.11g and 802.11a/g in laptops to themselves. But Intel is able to leverage the brand recognition of Centrino to take the marketing high ground. Mini-PCI adaptors are still a large percentage of all Wi-Fi solutions, so that Intel's market share in that segment means they have a lot of shipments to their credit."
But can it last? For the moment, Intel is only offering products for mini-PCI slots. Its competitors also offer chipsets for wireless access points, and for the growing markets in consumer electronics and cellular handsets. "Unless they also diversify," adds Solis, "they will inevitably hit a plateau that will allow Broadcom, Atheros, Marvell, Texas Instruments, and others to continue to grow their overall market shares."