The Most Valuable Chip Co.
Don Scansen posted on November 12, 2012 | | 2393 views

The most talked about news last week was probably Apple passing the torch to Samsung as the top smart phone. Yes, the Galaxy S3 is now top dog. But a much more significant milestone was highlighted by David Manners. Qualcomm surpassed Intel as the highest valued chip company in market capitalization.

The reason is mobile, and this latest turn shows investors -- chiefly Warren Buffet -- punishing Intel's attempts to capture some share of the mobile platform sockets. They haven't done the best job, but that's not necessarily cause for alarm.

Let's actually think about this for a minute. After all, how closely do investors look? Do you remember the Internet bubble? Investment trends have a lot in common with fashion and pop culture.

The mobile craze is absolutely here and still ramping up. We all need fully functional computers in our hands that we occasionally use to make a telephone call. But something else has happened in parallel, perhaps even enabling the explosion of high performance hand-held computers. I'm talking about the cloud. Most of what people need on the go is web-based (not too different on the desk top for most users these days). An explosion of server farms to provide videos, music, and other information on demand has quietly kept pace with the tsunami of iPhone and iPad users. 

Ultimately, some of the market backlash may have less to do with Qualcomm's success and the rumor and suspicions floating around that Apple will dump Intel for its traditional computing platforms. The traditional PC might be in decline, but Apple is growing its business for desktop and traditional laptops. If Intel processors continue to find homes in Apple products, investors are likely to reward Intel on that front.

Another angle to look at comparing the value of Qualcomm and Intel (at least in the processor space) is the number of competitors. In mobile chips, Qualcomm competes with Apple, Nvidia, Samsung, and several other players especially at the low performance end. Compare that to the server market which is totally dominated by Intel who face only spotty competition from AMD and IBM who use their own Power7 chips in just a few of their own Unix servers.

We need to remember that it is not mobile processors powering these server farms. It's primarily Intel with the lion’s share and one main competitor -- AMD. We return to the question, does Intel deserve feedback from investors as a result of its mobile computing product execution? That exercise is left to the reader. Is Intel still important in the post-PC era? That's still a firm, "Yes."