Analyst firm IC Insights has put together a ranking for the chipmakers that covers the first three quarters of this year. There are no real surprises at the top: Samsung continues to gain on Intel despite the collapse of the flash memory prices but not many companies have switched places.
It's at the bottom of the top ten where history is being made. For two consecutive quarters and for the first nine months of the year overall, a fabless vendor has sat in the top ten. Qualcomm has surged into ninth place in the rankings, displacing Sony. The company managed it for a quarter last year, according to iSuppli figures. But, this year, Qualcomm's position has become more entrenched. In a business that has traditionally been dominated by integrated device manufacturers (IDM), this is a big change. According to IC Insights, there are now three fabless chipmakers in the top 20: Qualcomm; Broadcom at 19 and nVidia at 20. Pretty soon, we will be counting AMD among their number.
IC Insights has warned Qualcomm may not stay in that position for the full year as the company has forecast a big drop in Q4 sales. But there is a good chance that the mobile-phone chipmaker will be close to the top ten if not actually in it. And, as the fabless business surges on, we can expect TSMC to overtake Toshiba and probably ultimately challenge Texas Instruments for the number-three position - IC Insights is unusual in putting foundries in these rankings - no matter what the wider economy does.