QUALCOMM HAS POURED WATER on rumours that it'll stop making ARM-based chipsets for the data centre world
"We are not looking at strategic options. We are not selling. We are still focused on it," Qualcomm's president Cristiano Amon told Reuters, dismissing previous reports and rumours that the chipmaker was planning on shutting down its server chip business division.
While Samsung may have knocked Intel off the top spot as the world's largest semiconductor maker, Intel still reigns supreme in the server chip world, leaving even the likes of AMD in its wake.
Against such stiff competition, Qualcomm has been struggling to loosen Intel's stranglehold on the server chip market, even with its use of more affordable ARM-based processors.
In May, a person familiar with the ins and outs of Qualcomm's server chips told Bloomberg that the chipmaker was looking to get out of the server space by either shuttering the division or selling it.
Qualcomm had initially pushed into the server chip arena as a means to not be reliant on the chips it produces for mobile devices, in which it's the top dog.
But then Broadcom came along with an aggressive takeover bid, which Qualcomm dismissed. However, this forced Qualcomm's execs to promise its investors it would cut costs to increase its profitability and keep Broadcom at bay.
One of the ways it would do this, reckoned Bloomberg, was to cut out its less-than-stellar performing server chips biz.
That now doesn't seem to be the case, given Amon is keen to keep Qualcomm in the fight for a slice of the server space.
While Qualcomm can flog its mobile chips at quite a lick, slowdown in the smartphone world means the market isn't perhaps as lucrative as it once was. In the server arena, there's less scope to sell massive amounts of chips but then they go for much higher prices.
For Qualcomm to make a success in the server chips world it'll likely need to offer processors that mix high-performance with superb energy-efficiency and undercut Intel's, or indeed AMD's, sever chips. That's arguably quite a big ask.
But then Qualcomm could use its ARM-based server chips to offer something different, say entry-level processors for people wanting to crunch machine learning workloads on servers that don't cost the moon or need fancy Nvidia tech.
Essentially, if Qualcomm can offer chips that do something a bit different to Intel's server chips, then it could carve out a section of the market for itself. Otherwise, it'll need to find some way to really go toe-to-toe with the likes of Intel's Xeon processors, either by beating them on raw performance or energy-efficiency.
It looks like Qualcomm could be going for the 'think different' approach as Amon suggested it the chipmaker will go after people looking to run workloads not restricted to the x86 architecture.
"It's very clear to us that the ARM opportunity is focused on a few players where you don't have the software x86 barrier to entry," Amon said.
So it would seem like Qualcomm will target companies and cloud firms looking to set up infrastructure, servers and services that haven't yet committed to servers running Intel or AMD chips.
This could be a niche area to begin with, but if Qualcomm gets a foothold it could build it out.
Aside from that, we have no clear idea on what Qualcomm's server chip plans are, but it looks like it's not ready to scrap its efforts just yet. µ
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