The changing battlefield of the mobile chip wars

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

The real battle in the mobile silicon space may soon focus almost exclusively on power and performance, rather than raw speed. 



Indeed, according to Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, power savings is key to battery life as more powerful apps use more and more processing cycles. 



"We don't expect the industry to move beyond 4 processor cores in the next 3-5 years, as that should provide sufficient computing power. We expect to see more emphasis on multicore graphics subsystems - which is necessary for video and gaming performance," the analyst explained in a detailed analysis recently obtained by TG Daily.



"However, there will be a distinction between chips designed for smartphones vs. those for tablets, since the power dynamics and functional requirements are different. Leadership here will swing to the more capable graphics companies with internal expertise - such as Nvidia and Qualcomm - although licensing of graphics IP for ARM (Mali) and Intel (Imagination Technology) will attempt to keep pace."

Gold also predicted that the mobile market will soon shift to a "phone on a chip" paradigm - featuring all of the processor, graphics and radios on a single die. This integration is expected to significantly reduce power requirements, lower BOM costs and facilitate the design of smaller devices.



"The advantage will go to those vendors who have an ability to adapt to this new environment. [Although] it's still early, we expect the market advantage to ultimately reside with companies that have the biggest
budgets and engineering capacity [such as] Intel. Bottom line - leaders and laggards will emerge in mobile chips over the next 1-2 years.  


"We expect Qualcomm to emerge as a leader at the higher end, with TI a leader in the mid tier. Nvidia will battle Qualcomm at the high end especially where graphics is required, but we believe ultimately Qualcomm will obtain the largest market share. [Meanwhile], Intel's Atom will establish a market presence and in 2-3 years will be a significant player in smartphones and tablets, especially with Windows 8 and Android powered devices at the mid to high end of the market," the analyst concluded.