Samsung enters the Bitcoin mining business as it becomes the world’s largest chipmaker
Details around its plans for a mining chip are somewhat scant. In a statement to the BBC, Samsung simply stated that “Samsung’s foundry business is currently engaged in the manufacturing of cryptocurrency mining chips. However, we are unable to disclose further details regarding our customers.”
According to Korean newspaper The Bell, these processors are ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) chips. This means they’re custom-designed to perform one single task, but can’t perform anything else. If this is the case, Samsung is likely to be drawing upon its knowledge of the TV industry, which generally uses ASIC chips instead of your more commonplace processor.
Currently, miners tend to adopt consumer-grade graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD. This adoption has led to an inflation of price around consumer graphics cards, with some off-the-shelf models going for almost three times their intended price. If Samsung can sweep in with a cheaper, more efficient ASIC-based miner, it could be onto a success in a new business division.
Interestingly, AMD also believes its new Threadripper CPU can outperform consumer-grade GPUs for mining capabilities. However, its high cost means it probably won’t be adopted as a new standard, especially if Samsung’s chips perform well.
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Samsung takes the top spot
During Samsung’s earnings call, it was also revealed that the South Korean company had overtaken Intel to become the largest chipmaker in the world. Samsung surpassed Intel’s $62.8 billion 2017 revenue by generating $69.1 billion in its semiconductor division alone. If you’re wondering how big a deal this actually is, Intel has been sat at the top spot, entirely unchallenged, since 1992. It’s also the first time a non-US company has sat in that spot.
As The Verge points out, this isn’t really the fairest of comparisons: Intel focuses on x86 processors, whereas Samsung does not. In the x86 business, Intel leads by a long, long way, but in terms of monetary value, Samsung takes the biscuit.
Samsung’s business has grown exponentially over the past few years. Part of this growth is due to Samsung manufacturing chips for its own products of home appliances, smart devices, market-leading TVs, and mammoth smartphone business, but it also supplies components to other companies. It’s known that Apple uses Samsung components in its iPhone, and you’ll find its RAM chips, SSDs and HDDs in products around the world.
If Samsung’s Bitcoin and cryptocurrency-mining business takes off, expect the gap between Intel and Samsung to grow even more.