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Laptops, Windows 8 tablets will be key fronts in Qualcomm's ARM v. x86 battle

We already wrote about some of the cool stuff at Qualcomm Inc.'s (QCOM) keynote at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, including Sesame Street augmented reality toys, the Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize, and even a bit of anti-SOPA stumping by Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro.

Wrapping up we wanted to toss out some final odds and ends from the press conference.  Unlike some of the other press conferences (*cough* Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)) who were a bit odd in delivery and lacked a clear driving message, Qualcomm really delivered a compelling presentation showing off some of its biggest works in progress.

Qualcomm conference

At the heart of its talk was the Snapdragon 4 platform, which is an appropriate place to conclude our coverage of the event.  Snapdragon 4 is a platform aimed at smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even internet televisions.

It will come a-knocking in "early 2012", as a variety of dual- and quad-core chips.  While that may sound scary from a smartphone power consumption perspective, Qualcomm is going to be building its products on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd.'s (TPE:2330) new 28 nm process, which allows for much more power efficient performance, thanks to the smaller feature size.  The leaner, cooler chips also allow for a bump in performance.

Android wins
Android has been an important driver of Snapdragon.

On the GPU front, they will feature the new Adreno 225, and promise 1080p 3D video playback and support for Dolby 7.1 surround sound.  

Qualcomm Snapdragon on Nokia

Qualcomm says that it has 70 designs already in the works, from a plethora of partners.  Its particularly going hard at putting its "game-changer" Snapdragon 4 platform on Windows 8 tablets and notebooks.

Snapdragon 4 partners
Expect Snapdragon 4 devics from these companies.

While there's plenty of cause for skepticism regarding Windows 8 tablets, I previously wrote why I think they will defy the odds like a certain Tim Tebow and become a winner.  Basically much of Windows Phone's sales woes boil down to poor sales commission funding (meaning store employees are disinterested in pitching you the Windows Phone), a laggard schedule of deployment to top U.S. carriers, and poor advertising, to boot.  

Intel Corp. (INTC), a key competitor of Snapdragon was also extremely enthusiastic about Windows 8 tablets, so clearly the verdict is near unanimous between actual hardware makers -- Windows 8 has a lot of potential for the tablet space.

Qualcomm -- Microsoft's exclusive Windows Phone CPU provider -- clearly wants to make sure that Intel isn't the only Windows 8 tablet winner.  Empowered by Windows supporting ARM chips for the first time, ARM is prepared to storm towards Windows 8 glory.

States Qualcomm Chairman and CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs, "Windows 8 is Windows reimagined as it is enabled by Snapdragon."

He enthusiastically spoke of an "always on, always active" lineup of Snapdragon 4 devices.  Clearly Snapdragon 4 has its work cut out for it, taking on Intel, but they've brought some top tier firepower on their side, including top mixed martial arts champion Alistair Overeem who made a surprise appearance at the keynote (Qualcom apparently makes an "Ubereem" themed video game...).

Alistair Overeem at Qualcomm

2012 should be quite the interesting year as ARM and x86 (Intel) engage in total war on the PC market.  This may be bad news for the loser, but its great news for the consumers should be able to purchase laptops, tablets, and smartphones at terrific prices and get fantastic device performance.

Qualcomm as the top ARM CPU maker will doubtless lead ARM's charge in the war.

All images © of Jason Mick and DailyTech LLC.


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RE: Intel will be fine
By MrTeal on 1/13/2012 9:00:04 AM , Rating: 2
Intel has a lot to worry about from ARM, but I don't see ARM making a real push into the desktop or server space. Intel's more likely to move into tablets and smartphones than the other way around.

I'm actually still waiting on a report on DT about Medfield. There's been CES coverage of cases, coolers, children's toys and Justin Beiber, but the last piece on Medfield here indicated it would be a battery hog that idles over a watt and would get two hours of battery life while consuming 3.6W playing Flash video. Considering Intel's demos of Medfield have shown that's way out of line with reality, you'd think we'd get an update.


RE: Intel will be fine
By retrospooty on 1/13/2012 9:30:20 AM , Rating: 2
Not really. They havent been focusing on that market segment. Atom's are just now getting to 32nm, while Intel is making Ivy Bridge at 22nm. They have already announced that moviing forward, Atom will be getting sharp focus and be coming out on the latest manufacturing processes. By the end of the year, Intel will be making 22nm Atoms while everyone else is on 28nm ARM. Add that with some other process improvements on the next gen chip and you have a competitor. Now fast forward 2 more years with more Intel improvements and another die shrink. Intel has time and money and the best chip guru's on the planet in thier house... The last time Intel was challenged, they came out with the Core 2 CPU which blew AMD out of the water. Mobile is next.


RE: Intel will be fine
By rameshms on 1/13/2012 10:07:58 PM , Rating: 2
The last time intel was challenged (by AMD) the battle was fought in Intel's home turf (x86) with Intel controlling all the cards (Intel's underhanded techniques compounded with AMD's inability to manufacture enough chips due to intel's restriction about Fabs used for x86 manufacturing). This battle (or war) is lot different.. It is no longer David vs Goliath. Some of the parties in this war are hell-bent to take on Intel (cough nvidia cough)..
It'll be interesting to see how this drama plays out.. It is good for customers though.. Looking forward to purchase a cheap Win8 based ARM laptop ;-)


RE: Intel will be fine
By phantom505 on 1/14/2012 6:02:33 AM , Rating: 2
I love all you "performance" queens. I have a 3 year old Centrino 2 laptop, a K325 net top, and geez... I think it may still be a Barton desktop. All of them get pretty much anything I want to do done with not a meaningful difference.

Point is, the gap between AMD and Intel right now isn't really meaningful except if your professionally making CAD or media... which even a programmer doesn't do much of.


RE: Intel will be fine
By retrospooty on 1/14/2012 8:32:15 AM , Rating: 2
Not really sure what your rant is about. My point was that Intel, when pushed, has the time, money, and talent to come out with a great product... If they pour focus onto it, they can. Dont count them out of the mobile market is all I am saying.

If your contention is that todays desktop CPU's are all plenty powerful, I agree. But the leap from 2005's Pentium 4 and Athlon to 20006's Core2 was a HUGE one, and if you dont see the performance difference there, then you were probably not doing anything other than using your computer as a browser.



RE: Intel will be fine
By bug77 on 1/15/2012 5:51:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it's pretty baffling to see people wanting performance past the level you need. I guess it's a crazy world.


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