Intel gets a lot of flak these days for falling behind TSMC and Samsung in the foundry business. However, it’s easy to forget just how old the company really is, and how long it has held onto the semiconductor crown. A report from IC Insights shows just how consistent the chipmaker has been since the turn of the century.
Back in 1993, Intel was the top semiconductor company in terms of sales, ahead of NEC, Toshiba, Motorola, and Hitachi, names that have fallen from grace over the last two decades. Team Blue continued to hold the top spot in 2000 with yearly revenue of $29.7 billion (up from $7.6 billion in 1993), more than twice as much as the second-ranked Toshiba. This is when Samsung started climbing the ranks, rising from #7 ($3.1 billion) in 1993 to #4 ($10.6 billion) in 2000, and finally to #2 ($20 billion) in 2008.
Intel ran into a period of relative stagnation between 2000 and 2008, increasing its revenue by just $4 billion. Regardless, it remained the largest semiconductor company, followed by Samsung at #2 with a revenue of $20 billion. Qualcomm entered the fray around this time as a fabless chipmaker with a revenue of $6.5 billion, sandwiched between Renesas and Sony at #7.
Intel grew quite significantly between 2008 and 2019, more than doubling its annual revenue from $34 billion to a whopping $70 billion. The 2nd ranked Samsung also registered healthy growth, nearly tripling its revenue from $20 billion in 2008 to $55.7 billion in 2019. During this period, fabless chipmakers began to grow in prominence with NVIDIA, Qualcomm, and Broadcomm being the leading names, all with revenues in the $10-20 billion bracket.
Finally, in 2020, Intel was dethroned by Samsung to snatch the semiconductor crown for the first time ever. The Korean giant recorded a revenue of $82 billion in 2021, leading Intel by just $5.3 billion. We expect Intel to regain the top spot in the coming years. Meanwhile, fabless IC designers now account for five out of the top-ten semiconductor companies in the world. The newest entrants include AMD and MediaTek, both being the fastest-growing companies in their respective niches over the last couple of years.
It’ll be interesting to see how the semi market looks after another 10 years. Intel is likely to remain among the leaders, with NVIDIA, AMD, Qualcomm, and MediaTek expected to compete for the top-five spots.