CHIP DESIGNERS Broadcom and Qualcomm have announced system-on-chip (SoC) devices aimed at upcoming smartphones and tablets.
Broadcom, a firm that spent an hour of our time at Mobile World Congress (MWC) last year not allowing us to ask questions directly to its technical folk, tipped up at the show with single-core and dual-core implementations of ARM Cortex A9 processors. According to the firm the chips will be optimised for devices that run Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.
While Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Qualcomm garner the majority of the press due to their high-end SoCs, Broadcom prefers to pitch its chips to mid-range and low-end phones, with dual-core BCM28145 and BCM28155 SoCs that can run at up to 1.3GHz for devices priced $300 and below. The firm also announced the single-core BCM21654G, which can be clocked up 1GHz.
Broadcom didn't go into detail as to how its trio of chips are optimised for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich other than supporting its requirements. However Nambi Seshadri, SVP and CTO of Mobile Platform Solution and Wireless Connectivity at Broadcom claimed, "Responsive user interfaces, brilliant graphics and advanced features like Wi-Fi Direct, NFC and Bluetooth low energy are now basic smartphone requirements, regardless of price point, and our new platforms deliver all of these features with affordability that will appeal to consumers around the world".
Qualcomm, on the other hand, showed up at MWC with a new high-end quad-core chip that falls under its Snapdragon S4 Pro branding. While Broadcom touted the affordability of its chips, Qualcomm's S4 Pro SoC is aimed at the high-end smartphone and tablet markets, with a MSM8960 processing core, to which the firm has bolted an Adreno 320 GPU.
According to Qualcomm, the S4 Pro chip is optimised for Windows 8, meaning it expects Windows tablet designs to be based around the chip. In accordance with Microsoft's expected launch of Windows 8 late in 2012, Qualcomm said the S4 Pro won't be seen until the second half of 2012.
Broadcom's announcement might seem ordinary next to Qualcomm's high-end SoCs, but you don't have to be a mobile phone guru to realise that affordable smartphones are big business. On the other hand, Windows 8 tablets could well end up being a flop. After all there are a lot of Android tablets, and then there is Apple's Ipad.
Microsoft is not expected to put such stringent hardware specification guidelines on Windows 8 tablets as it did with Windows Phone, nevertheless Qualcomm is using the S4 Pro announcement to show that it has already optimised a SoC for the operating system in the hope to win business. Whether or not Windows 8 will win over tablet buyers is another matter entirely. µ