While my Foolish dueling partner Ryan Fuhrmann focused on the anemic earnings numbers coming from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), its operations paint a stronger picture. Since 2000, in fact, its operations have generated the following prodigious amounts of cash:

Year Cash Flow from Operations Y/Y Change
2000 $12,827,000,000 N/A
2001 $8,789,000,000 (31.48%)
2002 $9,129,000,000 3.87%
2003 $11,515,000,000 26.14%
2004 $13,119,000,000 13.93%
2005 $14,823,000,000 12.99%

Operating cash flow easily surpassed the 2000 peak Ryan was so concerned about in both 2004 and 2005. In a world where earnings are an opinion, but cash is a fact, I'd rather have anemic reported earnings hiding exceptionally strong operations than the opposite.

Prepare for the crash
I'll agree with Ryan that the semiconductor industry has boom, investment, and bust periods, and that it takes a huge level of investment to keep competitive. That's precisely why I'm an Intel shareholder! Tell me, which of the following semiconductor companies would you rather own when the going gets rough throughout the industry?

Company Cash & Equivalents Net Margin
Intel $5,213,000,000 20.46%
National Semiconductor (NYSE:NSM) $852,100,000 22.44%
Advanced Micro Devices
$828,626,000 6.17%
Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN) $722,000,000 17.81%
Analog Devices (NYSE:ADI) $402,491,000 18.47%
Maxim Integrated Products
$243,310,000 26.55%
$227,000,000 11.64%

As for me, I'd rather own the ones with the strongest cash positions and/or beefiest margins. Intel certainly outshines on the cash front, and it's in the top half of this list from a margin perspective, too. That improves its chances to emerge relatively intact from a cyclical downturn or prolonged industrywide pricing battle. The weaker companies may have their moment in the sun from time to time. But when push comes to shove and the going gets tough, I'd rather have my money invested somewhere with established staying power.

Think you're done with the Duel? You're not! Go back and read the other three arguments, and then vote for a winner.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor Chuck Saletta owned shares in Intel and Maxim. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.