Smartphone sales are expected to peak in North America and Europe next year, and then start to decline as the smartphone becomes just one of many connected devices. No one is more aware of this forecast than Qualcomm, the leading supplier of mobile processors and modems. The company is eager to translate its smartphone success to the “internet of things.”
“At a helicopter level, why not take the chips from the smartphone and sell them into new markets?” said Qualcomm VP of business development Jeff Torrance. “The challenge is, these markets behave differently.”
For starters, the IoT market is much more complex than the smartphone market for Qualcomm. The chipmaker has two primary customers in the smartphone market: Apple and Samsung. In the IoT market there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers for the company’s chipsets.
The company is addressing this challenge with a new go-to-market strategy. For the first time, Qualcomm will sell its chipsets through third-party distributors, starting with Arrow Electronics.
Arrow will bring to market Qualcomm’s two newest IoT chipsets: the Snapdragon 600E and the Snapdragon 410E. The 600E will target industrial robotics, connected home appliances, digital media and high-definition video applications. It includes a 1.5 gigahertz quad-core Krait 300 central processing unit as well as Qualcomm’s Adreno 320 graphics processing unit and Hexagon Digital Signal Processor. It supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. The 410E targets applications for smart homes, digital signage, medical equipment, industrial automation, digital media players and smart surveillance. It consumes less power than the 600E, using a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and an Adreno 306 GPU. It supports Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11n Wi-Fi and GPS.
Qualcomm also markets cellular IoT solutions, and Torrance said that at some point in the future the company may sell those solutions through third-party distributors. For now, Qualcomm’s cellular modems for IoT go to market embedded in modules made and marketed by companies like Sierra Wireless and Gemalto.
Qualcomm’s new chips will target connected machines that bypass cellular networks by connecting over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But the company is not positioning the 600E and 410E as competitors to low-power microchips. Torrance said Qualcomm is targeting applications that require “a significant amount of computing.”
The company is guaranteeing that both of its new chipsets will be on the market for a minimum of 10 years. While a decade is an eternity in the world of smartphone processors, creators of connected machines want predictability and dependability from component suppliers. Qualcomm is trying to encourage developers to work with its platform by promising them that its chips will be available for years. The ‘E’ in the name of both chipsets stands for “extended life.”