Qualcomm's Jacobs unveils new Snapdragon chips, touts connected vision

LAS VEGAS--Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) CEO Paul Jacobs announced a new line of the company's flagship Snapdragon chipsets and, in highlighting how he envisions them being used in smartphones and tablets, also noted how Qualcomm hopes to enable the next generation of mobile experiences.

qualcomm ceo paul jacobs


In a keynote address here Monday night to kick off the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Jacobs introduced the Snapdragon 600 and 800 chipset lines, which he said will both deliver better performance than the existing Snapdragon S4 Pro processors. The introduction of the new chipsets was a rebuttal of sorts to Nvidia, which on Sunday announced the Tegra 4, its latest silicon.

Jacobs said the 600 series will be aimed at high-end devices and will deliver up to 40 percent better performance than the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor at lower power. The new processor sports a new Krait 300 quad-core CPU with speeds up to 1.9GHz, and is sampling now. Jacobs said the product is expected to be available in commercial devices by the second quarter.

However, Jacobs spent much of his time talking up the 800, which is geared for "premium" mobile computing experiences. The chip will deliver up to 75 percent better performance than the S4 Pro, has a Krait quad-core configuration with speeds of up to 2.3 GHz per core. The chip also integrates 802.11ac Wi-Fi, LTE modem technology and also supports LTE Advanced for carrier aggregation. Further, Jacobs said the 800 will support the capture, playback and display of Ultra HD video with four times the pixels of 1080p video.

Jacobs called the 800 the "most advanced wireless processor ever built," in contrast to Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang who called the Tegra 4 the "fastest mobile application processor in the world today." Unlike the Tegra 4, which uses a standalone LTE baseband chipset, the 800 integrates LTE into a single chip. Qualcomm said 800 processors are currently sampling and should be available in commercial devices by mid-year 2013. Qualcomm said that it already has 50 design wins between the 600 and 800 chipset lines.

During his keynote, Jacobs called upon film director Guillermo Del Toro to demonstrate how Ultra HD video can be displayed using a device running the 800 chipset. The director played a particularly gruesome clip from his 2002 film Blade II and also showed a trailer for his upcoming movie Pacific Rim.

Jacobs, whose address was called "Born Mobile," took over a keynote slot that for a dozen years had been reserved for Microsoft; Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivered the company's final CES keynote appearance last year. Interestingly though, Jacobs welcomed Ballmer onstage during his keynote to talk about the companies' partnership for Windows 8 RT devices and Windows Phone.

The Qualcomm chief also talked about how Qualcomm is working to help wireless carriers deal with a potential 1000x increase in network traffic. Much of Qualcomm's work involves the deployment of small cells. In August Qualcomm acquired Israeli small cell firm DesignArt Networks. The chipset giant hopes to use the acquisition to bolster its position as a key provider of chipset and network architecture products for heterogeneous networks, or HetNets, which rely in part on small cells.

Jacobs also touted the firm's Vuforia augmented reality platform. He said that more than 40,000 developers from more than 130 countries have registered for the platform, and that there are more than 2,500 apps for Vuforia, with 1,500 coming in the last six months. Jacobs introduced the Sesame Workshop (and Big Bird) to demonstrate how augmented reality can be used to help children improve their vocabulary.

The keynote was topped off with an appearance from actress Alice Eve, who will star in the upcoming film Star Trek: Into Darkness. Qualcomm is partnering with Paramount, the studio behind the film, for a special app tied to the movie that makes use of Gimbal, Qualcomm's locational context-aware application enhancement platform. Jacobs, an avowed Star Trek fan, tried to get Eve to spill details about the film, but the actress stayed mostly mum. The keynote ended with a performance by the band Maroon 5.

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