Qualcomm’s new CEO eyes dominance in the laptop markets

Qualcomm Inc’s new chief thinks that by next year his company will have just the chip for laptop makers wondering how they can compete with Apple Inc, which last year introduced laptops using a custom-designed central processor chip that boasts longer battery life.

Longtime processor suppliers Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices have no chips as energy efficient as Apple’s. Qualcomm Chief Executive Cristiano Amon told Reuters on Thursday he believes his company can have the best chip on the market, with help from a team of chip architects who formerly worked on the Apple chip but now work at Qualcomm.

In his first interview since taking the top job at San Diego, California-based Qualcomm, Amon also said the company is also counting on revenue growth from China to power its core smartphone chip business despite political tensions.

Amon said a cornerstone of his strategy comes from a lesson learned in the smartphone chip market: It was not enough just to provide modem chips for phones’ wireless data connectivity. Qualcomm also needed to provide the brains to turn the phone into a computer, which it now does for most premium Android devices.

Now, as Qualcomm looks to push 5G connectivity into laptops, it is pairing modems with a powerful central processor unit, or CPU, Amon said. Instead of using computing core blueprints from longtime partner Arm Ltd, as it now does for smartphones, Qualcomm concluded it needed custom-designed chips if its customers were to rival new laptops from Apple.

As head of Qualcomm’s chip division, Amon this year led the $1.4 billion acquisition of startup Nuvia, whose ex-Apple founders help design some those Apple laptop chips before leaving to form the startup. Qualcom will start selling Nuvia-based laptop chips next year.

Arm is in the midst of being purchased by Nvidia Corp for $40 billion, a merger that Qualcomm has objected to with regulators.

Amon said Qualcomm has no plans to build its own products to enter the other big market for CPUs – data centers for cloud computing companies. But it will license Nuvia’s designs to cloud computing companies that want to build their own chips, which could put it in competition with parts of Arm.

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