Samsung’s emergence as No. 1 chipmaker over Intel shifts the focus from CPUs to high-demand RAM, SSD, and mobile chipsets

The news: Samsung overtook Intel as the world’s top chipmaker by revenue in Q2 2021, marginally beating Intel for the first time in 25 years, per CNBC. Samsung's total revenues of $19.7 billion beat Intel’s $19.6 billion. Given the continuing global chip shortage, and Intel’s persistent product delays, high demand for Samsung’s variety of products is likely to help it remain on top for the foreseeable future.

  • This marks a massive and likely continuous shift from PC processor-dominant Intel to Samsung’s widely-diversified product mix of RAM, SSD storage, and mobile chipsets which are in high demand heading into Q3.
  • Intel is fast losing ground as a once-untouchable processor powerhouse. Marquee clients like Apple, Microsoft, and Lenovo have moved their products to their own or other chipsets.
  • Intel pledged to reclaim its former glory by 2025, but only offered a new naming convention for its upcoming chips, as well as unveiled its foundry business to make chips for other companies.

What’s next? Samsung’s rise to No. 1 in revenue reflects the consistent demand for its various memory chips and components, most of which typically cost just a few dollars apiece, compared with hundreds of dollars for the CPUs that provide most of Intel’s income.

Both companies will need to invest in chip fabs to continue to remain competitive. Not only are they competitors in silicon manufacturing, but together with TSMC they comprise the major chip foundries which can define the future semiconductors essential for 5G cellular networks, self-driving cars, and AI.

"Behind the Numbers" Podcast