Ina Fried

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Qualcomm Aims to Heat Up Phone Chip Race with Dual-Core, Quad-Core Chips

While Nvidia scored a lot of tablet and smartphone design wins at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, Qualcomm is hoping to get back into the act, announcing a new series of single-core and dual-core processors with plans to move to a quad-core chip by next year.

The new Snapdragon processors feature the company’s Krait chip design aimed specifically at mobile phones and tablets. The company said that the new chips offer up to 12 times as much performance as the original Snapdragon processors and, because they use a new, thinner generation of wiring, can use as little as a quarter as much power as the originals.

“We’ve really taken performance to the next level,” Qualcomm Vice President Raj Talluri said in an interview at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the chipmaker is announcing the new processors. Talluri said the chips will be particularly useful in gaming and augmented-reality applications and also support things such as recording 3-D video and playing back 3-D videos, without the need for glasses.

Talluri acknowledged that Qualcomm lost some ground in being later than Nvidia to move to dual-core chips, but said that the company expects 10 tablets using its processors to hit the market this year. HP plans to use a dual-core Qualcomm processor in its new webOS tablet.

“They got a couple,” Talluri said. “You’ll see a lot more from us.”

Qualcomm also benefits from two other industry moves–Nokia’s move to adopt Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft’s decision to enable full-blown Windows to run on ARM-based processors such as Snapdragon.

The Nokia move is noteworthy because Qualcomm has been at the heart of nearly all of the Windows Phone 7 designs thus far, giving it a huge opening to land Nokia–a company that thus far has not used much in the way of chips from Qualcomm.

“This one really provides a great opportunity for us,” Talluri said. “We can provide them a really quick time to market.”

As for the move to bring Windows to ARM-based chips, Talluri said that opens the door for Qualcomm to power whole new types of devices beyond phones and tablets.

“It extends our reach higher than phones,” he said. But, as with phones, Qualcomm will find plenty of competition as Nvidia and TI are also eager to give Intel a run for its money in the PC market.

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