Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), using its dominance in mobile-phone chips to push into tablets and laptops, says its new processors will set the stage for the thinnest and lightest Windows computers yet.
Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Paul Jacobs demonstrated a tablet based on his company’s new Snapdragon S4 processor today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The device, which runs Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows 8 operating system, also can connect to AT&T Inc.’s fastest mobile phone network using a separate Qualcomm chip.
The company is counting on Snapdragon to mount a challenge to Intel Corp. (INTC), the biggest maker of personal-computer processors. San Diego-based Qualcomm aims to apply its smartphone expertise to the computing business, helping PC makers create machines that are more like handheld devices.
“This is a game changer,” Jacobs said. “Our leadership with Snapdragon is really enabling us to work with PC manufacturers to deliver the lightest and thinnest PCs that are always on.”
Microsoft, the world’s top software maker, helped Qualcomm enter the PC market by letting Windows run on a broader range of chips. After years of working exclusively with Intel’s x86 technology, in a partnership known as “Wintel,” Microsoft’s planned Windows 8 operating system will also support designs from ARM Holdings Plc (ARM) -- the technology used by Qualcomm.
In another move designed to broaden the reach of its chips, Qualcomm showed off a new television from Lenovo Group Ltd. for the Chinese market. The TV uses Snapdragon to run Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
Intel, meanwhile, is coming at Qualcomm from the opposite direction. CEO Paul Otellini will take the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show later today to unveil smartphones featuring his chips.
The market for mobile-phone chips will grow 40 percent to $29.9 billion by 2015, according to the Linley Group. The success of Apple Inc.’s iPad, which runs smartphone chips based on ARM, proved to consumers that phone processors could deliver enough performance for computing tasks. Qualcomm and other developers of smartphone components license their technology from ARM, an English company that doesn’t make its own chips.
ARM-based processors will grab as much as a third of the market for mobile computers by 2015, up from 8 percent last year, according to estimates by Lazard Capital Markets LLC. The total market will grow to 340 million units in 2015 from 275 million in 2010, he predicts.
The smartphone market has even bigger growth prospects. It will reach 1.1 billion units by 2015, up from 300 million last year, according to Lazard. In that period, Intel will increase its share from zero to 13 percent, Lazard estimates.
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