Qualcomm bullish about heterogenous computing

Expect the Adreno GPU to play a much bigger role in the Snapdragon system-on-chip (SoC) according to Qualcomm’s director of Adreno product management, Tim Leland, as we asked him to provide us with clues about the future of the GPU from Qualcomm's perspective.

Heterogenous computing, he hinted, will play a big role in Adreno’s future and by extension, carry a much bigger importance in the fabric of the system-on-chip. This is in line with a general industry trend that has put increasing emphasis on using the graphics processing unit as a viable companion to the CPU (Krait in this case) rather than "just" a sidekick.

Leland said that a current generation flagship GPU like the Adreno 320 is now expected to do more "lifting" compared to previous generations as companies come up with more innovative ways to use the resources available (see Adreno 320 GPU could bring Lytro photography to phones).

General purpose GPUs will play a much bigger role in the future and Leland confirmed that the design process for future Snapdragon products will "ensure that the GPU and CPU will make the best use of the die space, reducing the amount of redundancy and maximising efficiency".

The Adreno 320, which Qualcomm reckons provides a similar gaming performance to the PS3 and the Xbox 360, is the first GPU from Qualcomm to fully support GPGPU (General Purpose Graphics Processing Unit) computing thanks to the addition of OpenCL 1.2, Google RenderScript and Microsoft Direct3D 11 with feature level 9_3.

Turning to the Snapdragon family, Michelle Leyden Li, who is in charge of marketing for Snapdragon SoCs, confirmed that the new naming convention, which sees dozens of Snapdragon processors being rearranged in four neat families (S1, S2, S3 and S4), was well received by partners and gathered momentum.

Ms Leyden Li declined to comment on the feedback received from ODMs and OEMs regarding Windows RT, which is scheduled for launch towards the end of October, although she did highlight the fact that developers – who received Windows RT-powered Qualcomm devices in February – had given a very warm reception to the new OS.

Qualcomm, Ms Leyden Li reiterated, delivers a superset of features and is not focused on form factors, preferring to leave that to its partners. New developments like the launch of the Qualcomm Reference Design programme enable companies like Lenovo to penetrate a target market with little or no friction.

However, one of the main challenges for Qualcomm over the next few years will be to meet the demand from consumers for more and better features while keeping in check the power envelope, product fragmentation and juggling up to seven tiers in mobile.

Qualcomm sent us this excerpt about its QRD programme

“The QRD program allows OEMs to launch products faster and at lower engineering costs, basing their devices off of Qualcomm’s industry-leading Snapdragon S4 mobile processors. The QRD ecosystem includes comprehensive handset development platforms; it also provides access to third-party providers of tested and verified hardware and software components for rapid delivery of commercial high-volume smartphone devices with unique differentiated user experiences. To date, the QRD program has launched 57 products and has collaborated with more than 40 OEMs with approximately 100 devices in the pipeline – all aimed at bridging the gap between feature phones and smartphones in emerging regions.”