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World's Top Companies - Samsung

The Global Top Semiconductor Companies

Top Semiconductor Companies – 1) Intel 2) Samsung 3) TSMC  (May 2014)

Now that we have just added Texas Instruments to our business listing ( about time) it also made us think about the top semiconductor companies in the world. What direction are they taking and how does it all affect us?

World's Top Semiconductor Companies - Samsung
World’s Top Companies: Samsung

The first three that springs to mind are obviously TI, then Samsung and Intel in no specific order. Those of us fortunate enough to have been around for the last fifty years will always remember Texas Instruments and the first silicon transistor and co-inventor Jack Kilby’s Germanium IC. From the East we have Samsung, a juggernaut with 100s of subsiduaries, which has made mind boggling headway in the last ten years to become the second largest semiconductor manufacturer world-wide. Samsung also manufacture the chipsets used in Apple iPhones and Tablets. However, Intel still lead the way. From an innovation point of view my personal favourites are Texas Instruments and Micron.

In order, the top ten for 2014, we have Intel, Samsung, TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company), Qualcomm (Snapdragon used in S5), Micron, Hynix, Toshiba, TI, Broadcom and Renasus. Surprises are Hynix moving up two positions and TI moving down one. And of course only one Japanese entrant, Toshiba in the top twenty. Qualcomm which is Fabless (manufacture) is boasting large revenue growths like Micron/Elpida (the largest). Although Intel remains still the global number one PC chip manufacturer, ARM (Foundry) grows steadily thanks to the tablet and cell phone sector.  (For those confused about Foundry and Fabless, thanks to Wiki, as always: “Fabless manufacturing is the design and sale of hardware devices and semiconductor chips while outsourcing the fabrication or “fab” of the devices to a specialized manufacturer called a semiconductor foundry“).

For those thinking that Intel is going to be floored by Samsung, remember that Intel not only sits in first position as chip manufacturer but also generates nearly 50% more revenue than Samsung’s semiconductor division. We are talking big league here. If one talks performance we think in terms of the Intel i7 and not any ARM processor which is ‘roughly’ on par with the Intel Atom processor. One thing is clear though, Intel are not taking a back seat in the Atom versus ARM war which reflects in jittery ARM investment. Read Adrian Kingsley-Hughes’s article on ZDNet. In terms of horsepower Intel still comes out as favourite. In case you are wondering, AMD has shown positive growth in revenue from 2013 to 2014 but still remains at #14. X86 architecture still remains supreme. Much thanks goes to Dell’s PowerEdge platform as well.

For those looking into the analogue to digital conversion world we have Cirrus Logic (acquired Wolfson Microelectronics) which is rated at #24 in America’s best small business according to Forbes. A good thousand yards behind Intel in revenue but yet boasts some of the best ADC chips in the world. Burr-Brown, which was acquired by TI in 2000 is rated amongst the finest high performance audio manufacturers. Legend!  At number 296 on Forbes 2000 we have Philips, another team favourite. My team at least.

We all recognise the semiconductor manufacturers listed above which includes some of the very best ADAC chip manufacturers, past and present. Processors and chipsets, Intel rules. Consumer products, tablets and smart phones, go to ARM. As China takes the top three slots under Forbes 2000, it’s going to be an interesting ride over the next ten years to see where semiconductor manufacture takes us.  Look no futher than Hon Hai Precision Industry or Foxconn showing dwindling returns over the last five years. Company culture is wreaking havoc and so it seems, Apple, possibly their largest client, must be growing increasingly nervous. TSMC is hoping for Apple business so watch this space.

In the words of Albert Einstein: “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else”.  In modern times it’s also about playing ‘faster’ than anyone else. Top performing semiconductor companies are exactly that. If you snooze, you lose.


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