MediaTek jumps into quad-core chipset race with Qualcomm, Nvidia

MediaTek unveiled its first quad-core applications processor for smartphone and tablets, indicating it wants to move beyond just selling chipsets for entry-level devices at punch at the weight class of heavyweights like Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Samsung and Nvidia.

MediaTek, a Taiwanese chipset company that has been making moves this year to raise its profile, said that its MT6589 will be the world's first commercialized quad-core System on a Chip (SoC), available for mid- to high-end Android smartphones and tablets worldwide. The chip, based on ARM Holdings' Cortex-A7, integrates MediaTek's multi-modem for HSPA+ and TD-SCDMA as well as a PowerV Series5XT GPU from Imagination Technologies for graphics. TD-SCDMA is used by China Mobile, the world's largest carrier by subscribers, and the technology's inclusion in MediaTek's product indicates that MediaTek will be targeting China Mobile with the new silicon.

"Up to this point, the story for MediaTek has been about transition from feature phones into smartphones," MediaTek's Finbarr Moynihan, platform marketing director, said in an interview with AllThingsD. He said the new chip will allow MediaTek to compete in the high end of the market. MediaTek noted that the chip is now being put into products that will ship starting in the first quarter of next year.

Only a fraction of its 550 million chipset shipments in 2011 went to smartphones, but this year MediaTek expects that figure to climb north of 100 million, according to AllThingsD. Still, MediaTek's smartphone chipsets have largely been limited to China, though the firm is making headway elsewhere.

Of course, MediaTek is not the only chipset maker pushing quad-core solutions. Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 has been shipping in products since earlier this year. Qualcomm earlier this month added two quad-core chipsets to its Snapdragon S4 family of mobile processors, the MSM 8226 and MSM 8626 chipsets. Qualcomm said both processors will be ready for customer sampling by the second quarter of 2013 for UMTS, CDMA and TD-SCDMA.

Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss said the real test for MediaTek will be to integrate LTE into a quad-core processor, something he estimated might happen by the end of 2013. "I'm glad to see Qualcomm is getting some competition, but I don't see anyone displacing Qualcomm in the world market anytime soon," he said.

According to research firm Strategy Analytics, Qualcomm led the smartphone application processor market in both unit and revenue terms in the first half of 2012. Samsung, MediaTek, Broadcom and Texas Instruments, in that order, took the rest of the top five rankings.

For more:
- see this release
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this CNET article

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