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Qualcomm commits to a Windows 8 laptop future

MobileNews
by Staff Writer
, 31 May 2011News

ARM's desire to take Intel on in the laptop, desktop and server markets has never been clearer - and architecture licensee Qualcomm plans to be right at the company's side during the charge, Qualcomm's Terry Yen has confirmed.

Speaking to thinq_ at the company's private meeting area - part of the luxurious Grand Hyatt hotel, next to the main Computex show hall - Yen, the company's vice president, explained that Qualcomm is keen to use its integrated offerings to push its way into the laptop arena.

"We will offer our OEM customers the most highly integrated product in the market," Yen declared - pointing to the advantages in board size and power consumption that a System on Chip (SoC) solution can offer over discrete components.

Integration has long been Qualcomm's main selling point: the company started life developing communications chipsets, which can be found in over 50 per cent of the world's 3G-enabled phones, before becoming an ARM architecture licensee and adding central processing into the mix.

"We don't buy ARM cores off the shelf like our competitors do," Yen explained. "We optimise for power consumption, to ensure a smaller codebase - it's how we differentiate. We focus on a much smaller set of capabilities than general ARM licensees - we aim to be best in class."

"Our goal is to take this knowledge and apply it to the laptop computing space," Yen said. That's an area which Qualcomm expects to grow rapidly over the next few years - largely thanks to Microsoft's decision to produce ARM-compatible versions of Windows 8 in cooperation with SoC specialists including Qualcomm.

"We're very, very interested in this opportunity," said Yen. "We think it will be one of our biggest growth opportunities in the next five years."

Pushed for details surrounding the launch of Windows 8 for SoCs - something that Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer claimed would take place some time in 2012 before his comments were corrected out of existence by wiser heads at the software giant - Yen demurred. "I can't give you dates," he explained, "but what I will tell you is that it wouldn't make sense for Microsoft to ship have two different OSes - ARM and x86 - ship at different times."

Yen praised the British chip design giant's work. "ARM is a revolutionary technology," he professed, "a great company with great technology," - but while Yen walked us through his company's first SoC developed exclusively for Windows 8 use in desktops and laptops, he explained that Qualcomm pushes the boundaries still further. While based on ARM's high-end Cortex-A15 'Eagle' design, he claimed that it had been customised to the point that the label no longer applied.

"It's an A15-class processor," Yen agreed, "but it's not a Cortex-A15." He revealed that the company's Windows 8 offering will take the form of the MSM8960, a Krait processor featuring two processing cores running at 1.7GHz and an integrated LTE modem. Sadly, it's a far cry from the quad-core 2.5GHz Krait the company announced at the Mobile World Congress event earlier this year.

Qualcomm is keen to work with both OEMs - Original Equipment Manufacturers - and ODMs - Original Design Manufacturers - on devices based on its creations, Yen explained. "In the PC industry, ODMs are an element you don't see in the wireless communications side - although in the last few years we've seen this growing.

"ODMs are very important to us," Yen confirmed, "they are often the ones that decide which platform to use." Getting ODMs on side will be a critical move for the success of Qualcomm's MSM8960, he admitted.

Yen claims that sampling of the chips will begin soon, with a view to commercial deployment early next year - and if Ballmer's prediction of a 2012 launch for Windows 8 proves true, that's perfect timing.

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