Qualcomm Unveils New Products, Numbers to Show It's OK AloneBy
Chipmaker says it’s dominating in automotive infotainment
Mobile component maker is fighting Broadcom’s $105 billion bid
Qualcomm Inc., the biggest maker of chips that run smartphones, unveiled a raft of products and customer wins beyond its mobile stronghold, trying to show it can continue as an independent company.
The company, target of a $105 billion hostile takeover bid by Broadcom Ltd., touted dominance in automotive chips, new processors for voice-controlled speakers and components for wireless headphones. It’s taking market share from Broadcom in home Wi-Fi routers and will soon challenge that company’s position in antenna parts for smartphones, Qualcomm said Monday at a presentation at the CES consumer electronics conference in Las Vegas.
“Most people think of us as mobile-only,” Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said, while noting the company generated $3 billion in sales outside of its main business in 2017. “We’re going to markets that mobile technology is disrupting. The new designs that redefine some of those markets are using Qualcomm. ”
The company has $3 billion worth of orders for automotive parts, Amon also said. As carmakers try to upgrade their center console and infotainment displays for smartphone-addicted consumers, Qualcomm is being asked to provide the technology, he said. Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc, Honda Motor Co. and China’s BYD Auto Co. are all new customers, he added.
Proving that Qualcomm’s technology reach is expanding outside its traditional area of strength in modems may be crucial to persuading investors to side with management in rejecting the Broadcom bid. Broadcom argues chipmakers need to combine and concentrate on core strengths while cutting efforts to expand into new areas that typically don’t pay off.
Qualcomm is directly taking on Broadcom in Wi-Fi chips for home routers, said Amon. Until now internet service providers such as Comcast Corp. have used cheaper, less-capable chips to build the modems they give to consumers, he said. As that market has been challenged by startups providing products with better Wi-Fi capabilities, Comcast and others are responding by upgrading their offerings -- and are increasingly using Qualcomm chips, he said.
And within phones, Qualcomm is poised to take share from Broadcom in the market for radio frequency, or RF, parts, said Amon. New 5G wireless services will require phones capable of connecting to multiple frequency bands. That’s done currently by increasing the number of RF chips. A new product from Qualcomm can be tuned to different frequencies, avoiding the need for many of these extra chips in phones, he said. LG Electronics Inc., HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google are all signed up to use the new Qualcomm RF offering, said Amon.
In the market for voice-controlled speakers, Qualcomm has developed a set of chips that integrate most of the major services including Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa, Microsoft Corp.’s Cortana and Google’s Assistant. The Qualcomm product will let speaker makers easily produce devices that have one or all of these services, he said.
The chipmaker is also taking a swing at a market currently dominated by Apple Inc. It’s going to begin offering chips that enable wireless earbuds to run longer on one battery charge and provide better sound than the market leader, Amon said.
Facebook Inc.’s upcoming $200 standalone Oculus Go virtual reality headset will be powered by a Qualcomm mobile processor, according to Facebook VR chief Hugo Barra. During Qualcomm’s presentation at CES, Barra also said the headset will be manufactured by China-based Xiaomi Corp. for global distribution and that a Xiaomi-branded model would be sold exclusively in its home market. Bloomberg reported on the new, cheaper headset last year.
— With assistance by Mark Gurman