Qualcomm aims at Intel with SnapDragon chips

Qualcomm hopes to challenge Intel in market for ultramobile PCs and mobile devices with the ultra-low power consumption of its chips

Global mobile phone makers including Taiwan's High Tech Computer are already testing new processors from Qualcomm with which the chip manufacturer hopes to challenge Intel in the market for ultramobile PCs and mobile devices.

Qualcomm has already started sending out SnapDragon chip packages to developers so they can see what kinds of devices might be made around them. The ultra-low power consumption of the Scorpion processor they contain could enable a whole new breed of mobile device, said Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, on the sidelines of a news conference in Taipei.

The microprocessor currently being sampled is a 1GHz chip that uses between 250 milliwatts and 500 milliwatts of power, he said. Intel's best processor for ultramobile PCs is A110, which runs at 800MHz and uses 3 watts of power.

The SnapDragon chip set also contains a 600MHz digital signal processor, and offers connectivity to mobile broadband technologies including CDMA2000 (Code Division Multiple Access 2000), 1xEVDO (Evolution-Data Only), HSDPA/HSUPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access/High Speed Uplink Packet Access), as well as mobile TV, Bluetooth, GPS (Global Positioning System), and WLAN (wireless-LAN).

The company is gunning for Intel's business with the new chips, but it's tough to compare processors made by the two companies. Scorpion is an Arm-based processor and has its own instruction set, which offers substantial energy savings but does not share the main advantage of x86 chips made by Intel: software. A lot more software has been developed around the x86 instruction set than any other processor, in fact, the entire library of software for PCs.

Alongside Intel's 800MHz A110, the company offers the 600MHz A100, which also consumes 3 watts.

Rival Via Technologies recently announced an x86-based processor that runs at 500MHz and consumes up to a maximum of 1 watt, or 0.1 watts in idle mode. The 1GHz version of that chip, the Eden ULV, consumes a maximum of 3.5 watts.

Still, device makers have a chance to try out SnapDragon now, and its low power consumption and wireless functions could aid in the development of new categories of mobile devices.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.