Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor Redesign Targets Smartphones, Tablets

Qualcomm showed off its redesigned Snapdragon processor, which is geared toward smartphones and tablets and will reportedly offer five times the performance at 75 percent less power.

Qualcomm introduced a fast, new version of its Snapdragon processor at a New York analyst meeting Nov. 17, according to several media reports. The new chipset, Qualcomm's first to be based on a 28-nanometer manufacturing process, is intended for smartphones and tablets and will feature a new CPU core. This version of the Snapdragon processors is schedule to start shipping in 2011.

''The MSM [Mobile Station Modem] 8960 will be a dual-core chip using an upgraded CPU core based on a new micro-architecture that delivers approximately five times the performance of the original Snapdragon chip at 75 percent less power,'' according to EETimes.

The tech site adds that the newest Snapdragon chip will also feature an integrated multi-mode modem with support for Long-Term Evolution (LTE), the 4G technology favored by Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Upgraded graphics capabilities will reportedly offer four times the performance of the original chip, plus integrated connectivity for WLAN, GPS, Bluetooth and FM radio.

Qualcomm processors are currently in a number of high-end smartphones, such as the Motorola Droid and HTC Evo 4G, and the company said that its chips are in the majority share of Android-running handsets. Behind the market-share-losing Symbian, Google's fast-rising Android is now the second-largest mobile operating system in the world.

In June, Qualcomm began shipping its first dual-CPU Snapdragon chipsets, MSM8260 and MSM8660, which run at up to 1.2GHz. The former was designed to work with HSPA+ networks-like T-Mobile currently has and AT&T plans to roll out-and the latter for HSPA+/CDMA200 1xEV-DO Rev. B.

The new MSM8960chip is based on ARM architecture, EETimes reported, adding that Qualcomm licenses the architecture but adds its own touch. Qualcomm didn't offer more details regarding ARM, nor on the foundry that will create them.

In March, Qualcomm announced that, building on the success it's had in the PC market, it would begin adding LTE to the connectivity options supported by its Gobi modems and working to expand into new mobile markets, such as e-readers and netbooks. Now, with the number of tablets coming to market numbering more than 30 brands and beginning to skim market share from netbooks and even mobile PCs, the iPad follow-ups are a natural market for Qualcomm to set its sights on.

On Nov. 3, Qualcomm announced the earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter of 2010, which included record earnings per share and record MSM chipset volume.

"In the coming year, we expect continued strong growth in CDMA-based device shipments, including smartphones and other data-centric devices, driven by the global adoption of 3G and accelerating consumer demand for wireless data," Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, said in a statement. "With our industry-leading chipset roadmap, broad licensing program and increasing number of global partners, we are well positioned to take advantage of these industry trends."

In a Nov. 18 research note, Gleacher & Co. Analyst Mark McKechnie, after attending the analyst meeting, said his firm "came away with no real change in opinion but suspect the Street was relieved by [Qualcomm's] commentary that channel inventory stands at the low-end of a normal range.

McKechnie reiterated his investment opinion of "buy" on the Qualcomm stock.