Qualcomm is hoping to tempt manufacturers away from the likes of Texas Instruments, Samsung and Nvidia with its latest Snapdragon S4 chips, and has an interesting proposal for lower-end hardware makers: backwards compatibility with existing hardware.
The Snapdragon S4 series is designed to power higher-end devices such as smartphones and tablets, offering up to quad-core processing and high-performance Adreno 3D graphics. The company's latest entries in the range, the MSM8625 and the MSM8225, however, are aimed significantly lower.
Designed as drop-in replacements for the existing MSM7x27A and MSM7x25A processors, the MSM8625 and the MSM8225 offer dual-core ARM-based processing combined with the Adreno 203 graphics processing unit. When inserted into a Snapdragon S1 design, Qualcomm claims it offers a dramatic performance improvement while retaining full software and hardware compatibility - meaning no lengthy redesign phase.
With increasing competition in the ARM system-on-chip marketplace - largely thanks to Nvidia's rapid design cycle, which sees it releasing new generations of processors every twelve months in an industry more used to eighteen or twenty-four month cycles - Qualcomm's promise of easy upgradability is likely to be a major factor in OEMs and ODMs deciding to go with the company's products rather than those of a competitor.
Qualcomm has confirmed that the new chips will be available as part of its development platform in the first half of 2012, meaning products featuring the processors could hit retail in the second half of the year.