At its annual partner summit in Hong Kong last week, Qualcomm announced a raft of new products, including what it called “breakthrough connectivity features” in its upcoming Snapdragon 820 chip and the next-generation of its fast charging technology (Quick Charge 3.0).
But it was away from the keynote sessions where the most attention-grabbing comments surfaced, with marketing VP Tim McDonough telling a group of journalists that “the core wars are over”.
Asked about the CPU core count in its 820 processor, which is a quadcore design while the 810 is octacore, he said the number of cores is not as important as the quality of the cores (Taiwan chipmaker MediaTek in May introduced its Helio X20 chipset, which has 10 cores).
McDonough said that with the Snapdragon 810 the transition to a 64-bit platform was very quick. “But after having time to work on the chip and make it more efficient, we were able to go back to four, which gives the performance we want.”
The thinking that more cores are better is led by marketing, he said. “China is core count central, but OEMs now are not caught up in that. I think consumers have caught on.”
The ability to pack a number of components on a single silicon platform has drastically brought down the cost of mobile devices, McDonough said.
“Integrating separate components on a system on a chip (SoC) we believe has fuelled the smartphone revolution by making them both more affordable and higher performance. Qualcomm is applying those principles to the drone market. We aim to enhance the capability and bring down costs to make them more accessible.”
Qualcomm thinks the drone market will go through a similar transition. A typical drone has seven PCBs, which means it’s expensive, he reasoned. “Each of those parts has to be brought from separate suppliers, and integrated, engineered and tested to make sure they work together.”
Integrating the seven into one or two standardised parts makes them significantly lighter and allows companies to move beyond generic technology and get more specific, with things like high-res video, he claimed.
Earlier this month Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Flight, which supports 4K HD video. The platform is its second reference design for drones. Cargo was released about a year ago, but it is not as optimised for weight, McDonough said.
The US chipmaker is planning to do the same chip integration with robots and automobiles.
With smartphones becoming more commoditised and sales slowing in most markets, Qualcomm obviously sees the need to hedge its bets. Although the drone market won’t likely hit the levels of smartphone penetration, the car and robotics industries could come a lot closer.