CES 2010 : Qualcomm To Use Former AMD Foundries To Produce Snapdragon Chips

It may be the biggest partnership win outside of AMD that Global Foundries -- the new company managing AMD's former fabrication facilities -- may ever have, or need to have, and it will be the talk of CES in just a few hours: Qualcomm has signed an agreement to be Global Foundries next big customer, with plans to produce smartphone and smartbook components at Fab 1 in Dresden, Germany this year.

Fab 1 is AMD's former Fab 36 -- the main production facility for AMD's 45 nm quad-core CPUs, which Global Foundries produces for AMD today. It's one of the crown jewel facilities for fabricating multicore chips anywhere in the world, now being fitted for the high-k-plus-metal-gate process developed with IBM.

With Global Foundries producing Snapdragon chips for Qualcomm -- as its CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs, will likely make official during a CES keynote later this afternoon -- Qualcomm may not just go toe-to-toe against Intel's Atom both qualitatively and quantitatively, but may even have a leg up.

Snapdragon is the chip platform behind Google's and HTC's Nexus One phone, announced Tuesday; and Acer's A1 Liquid, which runs Android 1.6 "Donut" today, but which many see as capable of Android 2.1 "Eclair" before very long. Today, it's a single-core 1 GHz processor produced by ARM, the leading producer of embedded processors and the champion of the "smartbook" concept.

In an interview yesterday at CES with UK-based tech site Hexus.net, Qualcomm Senior Vice President Luis Pineda said a 1.3 GHz 45 nm version of Snapdragon would be available in products by the end of this year, and that a dual-core 1.5 GHz edition would be in production by the end of the year. But Pineda did not reveal the obvious detail: With whom does Qualcomm produce a dual-core processor at that speed? Now we know.

Today's news could very well make Snapdragon the big story of CES. Already, in the wake of Microsoft's failure to unveil any details on Windows Mobile 7, one of the highlights from that keynote -- the HP "slate" PC -- has only managed to fuel the fire for a story that isn't good at all for either Microsoft or Intel: HP is showing off a multitouch Snapdragon-based tablet with a similar design to the "Slate," probably for a cheaper price point and a carrier subsidy. It's running Android now, and PC Perspective has the first video.

Such a product might end up being seen as "cooler," at the very least, than a high-end tablet PC running Windows 7 selling well into the $1,500 price points. But a premium version of an Android-based, always-on mini-slate, just small enough to fit into attachés or purses, running with a dual-core processor made in AMD's old factory, could be huge.