Samsung set to take Intel's chip crown

May 09, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
Intel has been the world's number one chip company since 1993 but could surrender that position to Samsung Electronics in 2Q17 as Samsung revenues are driven higher by climbing averages sales prices (ASPs) for memories.

That is according to market researcher IC Insights and is based on the premise that memory ASPs at least hold their current levels in 2Q17, which seems likely. Using the mid-range sales guidance set by Intel for 2Q17, and a modest, yet typical, 2Q sales increase of 7.5 percent for Samsung, the South Korean supplier would unseat Intel as the world’s leading semiconductor supplier, if only for a quarter.

Intel was propelled to the top spot back in the 1990s when it launched the 80386, the 486 and Pentium and achieved great success as it helped drive and surf personal computer deployment and replacement waves. It was so successful as the processor supplier for the IBM PC that it opted to get out of many forms of memory production to focus on logic production which commanded a higher value per unit of silicon area in production.

There is irony there as it is Samsung's position as the leading supplier of DRAM and NAND flash memories that is now allowing it to raise prices and potentially take Intel's number one position.

As recently as the 1Q16 Intel's sales were 40 percent greater than Samsung's, IC Insights points out. IC Insights has seen ASP hikes of that order that have lasted into 1Q17 but said pricing will begin to cool in 2H17. IC Insights forecasts the 2017 DRAM market will still be up 39 percent on 2016 and the NAND flash market in 2017 will end up 25 percent on 2016, but there is upside potential on those numbers.

Next: Intel's and Samsung's progress across the years