Bitcoin pushed beyond $8,000 this week, a boon to those willing to pour money into a risky and speculative piece of code that's hoarded more than spent.
But the crypto craze is leaving behind the very technology companies that were meant to benefit without having to touch the stuff. Despite all the evangelizing about the blockchain's decentralized nature, the days of a global network of laptop-toting techies mining Bitcoin from home or the coffee shop appear to be over. They've been usurped by specialist firms with the resources to make their own powerful mining kit.
This isn't great news for big listed chipmakers such as Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. and NVIDIA Corp., whose graphics cards have been used to do the power-sucking computations needed to confirm transactions. These cards are made to handle sophisticated gaming graphics so they're very good at repetitive data crunching.
Still, they haven't kept pace as Bitcoin's supply cap puts ever greater computing demands on each new transaction confirmation. AMD and NVIDIA shares have done better than their peers in recent years, in part because of their usefulness to the crypto crowd, but their stock didn’t react much to the latest Bitcoin highs.
For Bitcoin at least, it seems the only way for an equipment supplier to make money is to be involved in the whole chain: that is, make the mining gear, use it yourself and sell it to others, and trade the coins too. It's hard to imagine a $100 billion-plus listed company getting that past investors.