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Intel's 2 Biggest Growth Opportunities

By Ashraf Eassa - Dec 11, 2017 at 8:35AM

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Chipzilla is going after a few big markets.

Chip giant Intel (INTC 3.21%) is hardly the first company that springs to mind when the phrase "growth stock" is mentioned. It's a large, mature company that has dominant market share in the arenas that it has historically participated in and has, in the past, struggled to capitalize on new, emerging areas, such as the market for smartphone and tablet processors

Despite some of Intel's missteps, though, the company has shown its ability to capitalize on several growth areas over the last few years. 

Let's go over two of the biggest growth opportunities in front of Intel. 

The memory market

For a few years now, Intel has appeared very bullish about the market for non-volatile memory products. Non-volatile memories are types of computer memory that retain their data even when power to the device is removed. NAND flash memory, which is widely used as a storage medium in smartphones, personal computers, and data centers, is an example of a non-volatile memory technology. 

Intel participates in the non-volatile memory market in a few ways. First, it builds storage devices based on NAND flash. The company mainly sells these storage devices to data center customers, but also offers some NAND flash-based storage drives in the personal computer market. 

A storage drive based on Intel's 3D XPoint memory technology.

Image source: Intel.

The overall solid-state drive market is expected to be worth over $60 billion by 2023, though Intel's opportunity is necessarily smaller because the company is focusing primarily on the data center space. 

Another area that the company is paying particular attention to is a new memory technology called 3D XPoint. 3D XPoint is more expensive than NAND flash, but it's supposed to be much faster and more durable. 

Right now, Intel is only selling 3D XPoint-based storage devices to data center customers and to ultra-high-end consumers, but the company is planning to introduce 3D XPoint-based memory modules intended to displace DRAM -- a type of fast, volatile memory -- in certain applications. 

Since Intel doesn't participate in the DRAM market at all today, any sale of 3D XPoint-based memory modules at the expense of DRAM memory module sales represents upside for Intel. Intel says that the addressable market for 3D XPoint-based memory modules will hit $8 billion by 2021. 

The network infrastructure market

Another opportunity that Intel talks quite a lot about is the market for network logic silicon. Intel says that the total addressable market for such chips was $18.6 billion in 2016, with that presumably growing over time .

At a recent investor conference, Intel executive Navin Shenoy said that the company had about 18% share of this market and that its network chip revenue growth was about 10 times that of the overall industry's growth -- implying meaningful market segment share gains. 

A wafer of Intel processors in the background with finished and packaged chips in the foreground.

Image source: Intel.

"You are going to see us aggressively invest to go after more and more of this market over the next several years," Shenoy said. 

Though Shenoy didn't commit to a specific market segment share goal, he did say that the company's "ambitions would be to grow [Intel's] percentage of the market from 18% to something much higher than that." 

For some perspective: If Intel were to go from about 18% share of the market to around 50% share of the market (this is an aggressive assumption, but Intel probably has the resources to pull it off), Intel could be looking at incremental revenue of at least $6 billion (assuming a flat market; if the market continues to grow, Intel's revenue growth would be even higher). 

Only time will tell if Intel can achieve such high market share, but the opportunity appears to be large and the company has done a good job of capturing share thus far.

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