Qualcomm’s efforts to expand into the personal computer market have long been an extension of its main mobile business. Over the last year, the company has been adapting Arm-based smartphone chips for laptops running Microsoft’s Windows operating system. With promises of longer battery life and the ability to connect to cellular networks, the company has already won over manufacturers like Samsung and Lenovo.
But now Qualcomm is doubling down on the market. On Thursday, the company said its latest processor will be specific to personal computers rather than adapted from smartphone chip designs. The 8cx processor is based on the 7-nanometer node and includes the company’s latest LTE modem, resulting in lower power consumption and faster connectivity. The chip will start shipping inside devices in the third quarter of 2019.
The chip is designed to bring Qualcomm's chips closer in terms of performance to Intel's processors, according to Sanjay Mehta, the company's senior product manager of compute products, at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit. The chip, which features an eight-core CPU and improved GPU is not replacing the Snapdragon 850, the 10-nanometer chip currently sold in devices from Samsung and Lenovo, Mehta said.
“A very small percentage of notebooks are mobile and connected,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst of market researcher Moor Insights and Strategy, told Electronic Design. “Qualcomm is removing nearly all objections of a connected PC. Connected speeds are higher, overall compute performance is now at the levels of a standard laptop and users get a true multi-day battery life.”
Thursday’s announcement is the latest indicator of Qualcomm’s ambitions in the market, which Intel has long dominated. The x86-based processors manufactured by Intel are used in 90 percent of all personal computers. Advanced Micro Devices holds the other 10 percent. More than half of Intel's $62.8 billion of revenue last year came from chip sales to the personal computer sector, which is starting to flirt with growth.