What happened

Semiconductor star Nvidia (NVDA 0.81%) is tumbling along with the rest of the market this afternoon, down 2% as of 11:45 a.m. ET.

Besides the general effect of coronavirus news, there is also a report that Nvidia could face increased competition from Intel for the most-talented employees in the industry.

Simple red arrow declining stock chart on a white checked background.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Taiwan's DigiTimes tech newspaper today confirmed reports by Bloomberg last week that Apple (AAPL 0.16%) is hiring more semiconductor engineers in order to design more of its chips in-house. Right now, according to DigiTimes, this is more of a threat to companies like Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Skyworks Solutions, rather than Nvidia per se. It does, however, play into a broader trend of Apple bringing the design of ever more kinds of chips in-house. In the long term, that could be bad for Nvidia if it shrinks the market for graphics chips in general.

And now comes a new threat. As TechRadar reported this morning, Intel (INTC -2.99%) is moving to fight back against Nvidia's growing dominance of the chip sector, setting aside $2.4 billion in cash and stock grants with which to raise employee salaries in 2022. Across Intel's 110,000-person payroll, that works out to an average of $21,000 per person in pay boosts, TechRadar said. But the money will be targeted toward Intel's best-performing employees, in an effort, as Intel said, to "win the fierce battle for talent in today's competitive market, while strengthening our execution."

Now what

Nvidia investors seem a little spooked by Intel's move. But according to TechRadar, the bulk of the pay raises being contemplated will come in the form of stock grants. And with Intel stock up only 9% over the past year, and Nvidia stock up more than 108% -- despite recent weakness -- I suspect rational high-tech workers looking for the best chance of profiting from stock options will still gravitate to Nvidia, and shy away from Intel.