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Oct 9, 2014 (reports on several Chinese websites about the launch): [First MT8752 octa-core Tablet!] 首款MT8752八核平板！[999 Yuan Cool Rubik’s Cube T7] 999元酷比魔方T7发布
Oct 11, 2014 on JD.com (Jingdong Mall): [Cool Rubik’s Cube] 酷比魔方（CUBE）T7 7[inch tablet computer]英寸平板电脑（MT8752[octa-core]八核 JDI[Retina [1920*1200] screen]视网膜屏64[bit]位[China Unicom]联通/[mobile dual]移动双4G 2.0GHz 2G/16G ￥999.00 [$163]
Oct 11, 2014 in ProductShow on [site home of] 网站首页 – [Cool Rubik’s Cube] 酷比魔方(CUBE)[brand website]品牌网站: T7 – 酷比魔方(CUBE)品牌网站
8″ and 9″ tablets (T8 and T9) to come later, as well as the ones with the quad-core SoC variety MT8732.Their lead partner for that is Shenzhen Alldo Cube Technology and Science Co., Ltd. releasing its products under the [Cool Rubik’s Cube] 酷比魔方（CUBE）brand. More information on this blog: MediaTek is repositioning itself with the new MT6732 and MT6752 SoCs for the “super-mid market” just being born, plus new wearable technologies for wPANs and IoT are added for the new premium MT6595 SoC [March 4-13, 2014]
This is MediaTek’s very first response to the 32-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 Processor (ARM TechCon 2014, Oct 1-3): “our latest and greatest”. Regarding the MediaTek competitive edge over Qualcomm before that you can read on this blog:
– Qualcomm’s SoC business future is questioned first time [May 1, 2013]
– Eight-core MT6592 for superphones and big.LITTLE MT8135 for tablets implemented in 28nm HKMG are coming from MediaTek to further disrupt the operations of Qualcomm and Samsung [July 20, 2013 – March 15, 2014]
– MediaTek MT6592-based True Octa-core superphones are on the market to beat Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-based ones UPDATE: from $147+ in Q1 and $132+ in Q2 [Dec 22, 2013 – Jan 27, 2014]
– ARM Cortex-A17, MediaTek MT6595 (devices: H2’CY14), 50 billion ARM powered chips [Feb 18 – March 13, 2014]
Intel’s desperate attempt to establish a sizeable foothold on the tablet market until its 14nm manufacturing leadership could provide a profitable position for the company in 2016
The stock market is over-optimistic about that: Intel tablets could cure [stock] market conditions [Saxo TV – TradingFloor.com YouTube channel, April 16, 2014]
I am—nevertheless—highly sceptical about that as Allwinner to continue the No. 1 position on Android tablet application processor market with the new UltraOcta A80 SoC optimized for premium devices, without the premium cost, also made universal accross other devices (TV box, notebook, smart TV, All-in-one and digital signage), and operating systems (ChromeOS, Smart TV, Windows, Ubuntu and Firefox OS) [‘USD 99 Allwinner’ blog, April 16, 2014]. My skepticism is also based on The lost U.S. grip on the mobile computing market, including not only the device business, but software development and patterns of use in general [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, April 14, 2014].
You can judge all that for yourself as the background and my analysis behind Intel’s tablet strategy could be found in the following sections of this post below:
- Intel’s Mobile and Communications Group (MCG), which the Tablet Group is just a part of, is the largest loss maker segment with losses even growing to $3.15B in 2013 from $1.78B in 2012, and continuing at least into 20145
- Intel is desperate to cheat when comparing its current tablet performance based on Clover Trail+ against much lower priced and lesser frequency ARM Cortex-A9 tablets from brand vendors.
- Intel’s Krzanich is betting on sacrificing “contra revenue” dollars for Q2-Q4 2014 tablet market with Bay Trail-based tablets, while hoping to level the playing field with its TSMC produced SoFIA SoCs for the 2015 tablet market.
To understand the technical and business development aspects behind that strategy read my previous posts as well:
– Intel CTE initiative: Bay Trail-Entry V0 (Z3735E and Z3735D) SoCs are shipping next week in $129 Onda (昂达) V819i Android tablets—Bay Trail-Entry V2.1 (Z3735G and Z3735F) SoCs might ship in $60+ Windows 8.1 tablets from Emdoor Digital (亿道) in the 3d quarter [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, April 11, 2014]
– IDF14 Shenzhen: Intel is levelling the Wintel playing field with Android-ARM by introducing new competitive Windows tablet price points from $99 – $129 [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, April 4, 2014]
– The long awaited Windows 8.1 breakthrough opportunity with the new Intel “Bay Trail-T”, “Bay Trail-M” and “Bay Trail-D” SoCs? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 14, 2013]
1. Intel’s Mobile and Communications Group (MCG), which the Tablet Group is just a part of, is the largest loss maker segment with losses even growing to $3.15B in 2013 from $1.78B in 2012, and continuing at least into 2014
Source: Download Quarters Q1 2014 [Intel Corporation – Investor Relations, April 16, 2014]
MCG is one of the new operating segments representing the following organisational responsibility, which is aligned with Intel’s new critical objectives (this particular segment was previously buried in the Other Intel Architecture Group):
- Mobile and Communications Group (MCG): MCG includes the Phone Group, the Tablet Group and Multi-Comm, all previously part of the Other IA operating segments.
- Mobile and Communications Group: Delivering platforms designed for the tablet and smartphone market segments; as well as mobile communications components such as baseband processors, radio frequency transceivers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth*, global navigation satellite systems and power management chips.
Note that the previous structure of operating segments (since the end of 2012) was as seen on the right. As far as the organizational size is concerned, according to Infineon Completes Sale of Mobile Phone Business to Intel – New Company Intel Mobile Communications starts operations [Infineon press release, Jan 31, 2011]:
Following the sale, approximately 3,500 employees in total will move globally from Infineon to the new company Intel Mobile Communications GmbH (IMC). IMC will be headquartered in Neubiberg near Munich, Germany.
Then according to Intel® Mobile Communications Profile [Intel, Jan 6, 2012]:
Intel Mobile Communications GmbH is a subsidiary of Intel Corporation headquartered in Santa Clara, USA. The company develops and markets innovative semiconductor products and solutions for mobile communications – most notably in the rapid-growth market segments of smart phones, tablets and ultra-low-cost mobile phones.
The company has approximately 4,000 employees all over the world, about 1,700 of whom work in Germany where the headcount at the company headquarters in Neubiberg near Munich is approximately 1,200. Other German sites are Ulm, Regensburg, Duisburg, Dresden, Braunschweig and Nuremberg. Intel Mobile Communications is represented in altogether 17 countries around the world and has a strong presence in the Asian growth markets.
Considering that the Mobile and Communications Group (MCG) of today was put together from Intel Mobile Communications, the Tablet Group and the Phone Group, the overall number of employees in MCG is quite probably more than 6000 people.
Note that as of May 2013 MediaTek had 6,880 employees and ARM Holdings’ workforce at the same time was 2,261. As of March 2014 Allwinner Technology had 550+ employees (450 of which were engineers). In July 2013 Rockchip had more than 500 employees, 80% were engineers. In September 2013 Spreadtrum had 1,506 employees.
The 4000 strong Multi-Comm business is mostly engaged in standalone baseband processor market which had the following sales structure in 2013 according to Forward Concepts [March 24, 2014]:
Intel, the 2nd leading supplier of 3G thin modems in 2013 – will likely become the 2nd leading supplier of 3G/4G thin modems in 2014. Their focus will be on winning 3G/4G modem orders for notebooks and tablets. They will be challenged by Marvell’s 3G/4G PXA802 TD- LTE modem, which also supports TD-HSPA+ and is already shipping to ZTE.
Intel was—however—warning in its Nov 21, 2013 Investor Meeting presentation that:
In fact Strategy Analytics was painting a rather dark picture in Qualcomm’s Dominance Continues with 64 percent revenue share says Strategy Analytics [Feb 21, 2014]:
Qualcomm, MediaTek, Intel, Spreadtrum, and Broadcom captured the top-five revenue share spots in the cellular baseband processor market [which the standalone is just a part of] in 2013. Qualcomm dominated with 64 percent revenue share, followed by MediaTek with 12 percent revenue share and Intel with 8 percent revenue share.
Sravan Kundojjala, Senior Analyst, explains “Qualcomm domination in the cellular baseband market continued in 2013, thanks to its early investments in multi-mode LTE technology. The LTE baseband landscape is expected to be a crowded one in 2014 with several vendors including Broadcom, Ericsson, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, NVIDIA, Spreadtrum and others are all set to bring commercial multi-mode LTE chip products to the market and this could help drive LTE down into mid-to-low tier devices.”
According to Stuart Robinson, Director of the Strategy Analytics Handset Component Technologies service, “Strategy Analytics calculates that revenue from baseband-integrated applications processors represented over 60 percent of total baseband revenue in 2013, up from 48 percent in 2012. Most baseband vendors have now transitioned their portfolios to include integrated products in order to boost their revenue share.”
According to Christopher Taylor, Director of the Strategy Analytics RF and Wireless Componentservice, “MediaTek overtook Intel to capture the number two spot in the 3G UMTS baseband market in 2013, by Strategy Analytics estimates. MediaTek capitalized on its smartphone chip momentum and improved its baseband-mix. MediaTek’s recent LTE chip announcements could potentially improve its baseband revenue share in future.”
Such a doomsday scenario was even more present in Qualcomm, MediaTek in Two-Horse Race, Says CLSA; Game Over for BRCM, Etc. [Tech Trader Daily at Barrons.com, Apr 11, 2014]
… and predicting many of the challengers will fold up without making a dent in Qualcomm’s position.
We believe that the baseband battle is largely over and expect more consolidation in the next 1 – 2 years. Nvidia is already shifting its investments, and we see a strong possibility that Broadcom exits in the next 6 – 9 months. Intel’s new management may have a bit more time, but we do not see enough opportunity to justify its $2bn+ investments. Marvell is least likely to exit in our view, but we expect it to remain a niche player. Overall, we expect the Qualcomm / MediaTek duopoly to get even stronger in the coming years and see positive implications for the overall industry profitability.
The baseband market has seen meaningful consolidation over the years. In 2006, there were 15 vendors in the market including larger analog IC vendors such as Texas Instruments, Freescale, and Analog Devices. The market has contracted to about 9 vendors by 2008 and currently has 7 vendors, after the recent consolidation at ST-Ericsson and Renesas.
Even if second tier vendors make significant progress in LTE, we simply do not see enough opportunity for all these vendors to achieve profitability any time soon.
MediaTek has a higher share in shipments of Chinese smartphones:
Chinese telcos, in particular China Mobile, are aggressively expanding their 4G networks, and China Mobile is targeting 100m LTE devices for 2014. While China Mobile’s target does appear aggressive, Qualcomm appears to be dominating the early shipments. We expect MediaTek-based LTE phones to start shipping in the next few months and expect a majority of MediaTek’s 3G customers to stick with the company as the China market transitions to 4G. Chinese smartphone OEMs lack the R&D capability of their international peers, and as a result, rely on turnkey solutions from MediaTek and Qualcomm. While MediaTek appears a bit late with LTE, we expect the company to maintain a strong share of the China LTE market longer term given its relationships with domestic handset manufacturers.
2. Intel is desperate to cheat when comparing its current tablet performance based on Clover Trail+ against much lower priced and lesser frequency ARM Cortex-A9 tablets from brand vendors.
For an Intel Clover Trail+ (pre-Bay Trail-T) tablet: A Four-Tablet Comparison: Intel vs. Competition [IREPRockLegend YouTube channel, April 16, 2014]
But Intel is cheating here, especially by being at least 2 times more expensive than the others (all the below prices are “best retail ones”), even discounting the 3G call capability:
- $300 (but has 3G call capability as well): Asus Fonepad 7 (Intel Atom Processor Z2560 (2 Clover Trail+ cores/4 threads, 1MB Cache, 1.60 GHz) since Q2’13)
(++Review Asus Fonepad 7 ME372CG Tablet [Notebookcheck.net, Nov 13, 2013)
- $119: Amazon Kindle Fire [7”] HD* (TI OMAP 4460 Processor (2 Cortex-A9 cores, 1.20 GHz))
[* Intel is cheating even more here as the 2nd generation figured in the above test has been replaced half a year ago by a 3d generation 7” Kindle Fire HD tablet which contains the TI OMAP 4470 with 2 Cortex-A9 cores, 1.5 GHz.]
- $160: Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7” (ARM Cortex A9 Processor (2 Cortex-A9 cores, 1.2 GHz) )
- $139: Lenovo IdeaTab A1000 (ARM v7 Cortex A9 Processor (MediaTek 8317, Dual Core 1.2 GHz) )
The same cheating is in another new Intel video: A Three-Tablet Comparison: Intel vs. Competition [IREPRockLegend YouTube channel, April 16, 2014] where the $140 Dell Venue 7 16GB, having the same Z2560 CloverTrail+ processors goes against the same 2nd generation Amazon Kindle Fire [7”] HD and the also same Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7”:
And finally the cheating in the 3d new video is even more inexcusable: Tablets with Intel Inside® vs. the Competition: Samsung as here the $305 Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1” tablet with the same 1.6 Ghz Z2560 (and list price of is compared with the $200 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1” having just a 1 GHz Cortex-A9 dual core processor:
3. Intel’s Krzanich is betting on sacrificing “contra revenue” dollars for Q2-Q4 2014 tablet market with Bay-Trail-based tablets, while hoping to level the playing field with TSMC produced SoFIA SoCs for the 2015 tablet market
What is contra revenue? [Accounting Tools, March 5, 2013]
Contra revenue is a deduction from the gross revenue reported by a business, which results in net revenue.
Contra revenue transactions are recorded in one or more contra revenue accounts, which usually have a debit balance (as opposed to the credit balance in the typical revenue account). There are three commonly used contra revenue accounts, which are:
- Sales returns. Contains either an allowance for returned goods, or the actual amount of revenue deduction attributable to returned goods.
- Sales allowances. Contains either an allowance for reductions in the price of a product that has minor defects, or the actual amount of the allowance attributable to specific sales.
- Sales discounts. Contains the amount of sales discounts given to customers, which is usually a discount given in exchange for early payments by customers.
In fact what Intel calls in accounting terms “contra revenue” it actually represents the subsidies paid to tablet manufacturers in order bring the Bill of Materials cost of Intel tablets into line with ARM based tablets. Intel was forced into these subsidies otherwise tablet manufacturers weren’t going to offer Intel based tablets.
Intel aggressively promoting tablet CPUs in China [DIGITIMES, April 14, 2014]
Intel has resorted to an aggressive pricing strategy to promote sales of its tablet-use processors, particularly in China, a move which apparently will take on Qualcomm and MediaTek, while ramping up its market share, according to industry sources.
Prices of Intel’s mainstream quad-core tablet CPUs have dropped to below US$5, which are almost on par with those offered by China-based chipset suppliers such as Rockchip Electronics and Allwinner Technology and even below those available from Nvidia, Qualcomm and MediaTek, said the sources.
Consequently, the number of Intel-based tablets is likely to expand in a great proportion as more and more China-based brand and white-box tablet vendors are expected to use Intel’s tablet CPUs to develop new products, the sources revealed.
Intel’s new policy also focuses on deepening its relationship with the supply chain in China, highlighting by its recent announcement of establishing an Intel Smart Device Innovation Center in Shenzhen and a US$100 million Intel Capital China Smart Device Innovation Fund, commented the sources.
To encourage China-based tablet makers to use Intel’s CPUs, the chipset vendor is offering assistance in terms of design, technology and marketing, the sources indicated.
Intel’s offerings will be particularly attractive to white-box tablet makers as they can optimize low-priced chipsets and advanced technologies to roll out competitive models for the entry-level segment, added the sources.
Intel aims to ship 40 million tablet CPUs in 2014, including entry-level Bay Trail family and SoFIA 3G platform products, the sources noted.
Intel Beats on Bottom Line, Misses Revenue Expectations for Q1 Results [TheStreet YouTube channel, April 15, 2014]
From Intel Reports First-Quarter Revenue of $12.8 Billion Operating Income of $2.5 Billion, up 1 Percent Year-over-Year [news release, April 15, 2014]
Mobile and Communications Group revenue of $156 million, down 52 percent sequentially and down 61 percent year-over-year.
From Intel’s CEO Discusses Q1 2014 Results – Earnings Call Transcript [Seeking Alpha, April 15, 2014] ragarding the tablet strategy which is carried out by the Mobile and Communications Group:
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: … We set an aggressive goal of shipping 40 million tablet SOCs this year. And I’m happy to say we’ve tallied more than 90 designs on Android and Windows and shipped 5 million units in the first quarter, placing us squarely on track to that goal.
We demonstrated SoFIA, our first integrated apps processor and baseband, after adding it to the roadmap late last year. We’re on track to ship the 3G solution to OEMs in Q4 2014, with the LTE version following in the first half of 2015.
We also shipped our first Quark SoCs for the Internet of Things and announced an upgrade of Edison to the Silvermont Atom architecture. Edison is on track to ship this summer.
And in the Technology and Manufacturing Group, who’ve worked to advance Moore’s Law as foundational to our long-term success, we began production on our 14-nanometer process technology and remain on track to launch Broadwell in the second half of the year.
And the foundry team extended our collaboration with Altera to the development of multi-dye devices that take advantage of our world-class package and assembly capabilities and Altera’s leading-edge programmable logic.
Stacy J. Smith – EVP and CFO: … The Mobile and Communications Group is down 61% from a year ago. The underlying dynamics are consistent with what we shared at the investor meeting last November.
We’re seeing a decline in our feature phone and 2G/3G multi-[com] [ph] business, as we’re in the midst of a transition to integrated LTE solutions. In addition, the ramp in tablet volume is being offset by an increase in contra revenue dollars.
We’re winning designs and ramping our tablet volume rapidly and we have design wins in LTE that will result in a second half revenue ramp.
Let me even back up and give you — again restate the strategy of what we’re doing here. … what we’re doing is we’re taking Bay Trail, which is a product really designed for the PC market, and we made the decision to take it broadly across different segments of the tablet market this year.
It brings along with it, at least over the course of 2014, a higher bill of materials. And that’s independent from the SOC cost. It’s the power management subsystem, it’s the motherboard that it goes on, it’s the memory solution, those kinds of things. And so, we’re providing some contra revenue to offset that bill of material delta over the course of 2014.
Now, as we said, we’re doing value engineering with our customers and our partners. And so we’re bringing down that bill of material over the course of 2014 independent of any changes to our SOC. …
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: … We have a series of improvements. They have already started to kick-in in some cases around our power management systems, the number of layers in our motherboards, the memory system integration. All of those things we’ve worked on and actually have started to see the advantages already in our costs.
Stacy J. Smith – EVP and CFO: So, I think on a like dollars per unit, it comes down pretty dramatically over the course of 2014. And it should be relatively small, if at all, as we get into 2015. And it’s, again, the enablement we’re doing around the bill of materials.
And then we also have new products coming into the marketplace, like SoFIA, that’s targeted at the low end, and then in 2015 you’ll see Broxton, which is an SOC more for the mid-range to high-range of the market coming into our product portfolio.
So, the combination of all of that gives us a better cost structure with our own products and a better cost structure overall with the bill of materials as we enter 2015 and then work through 2015.
We’ll have significant unit growth in tablets. But remember that contra revenue isn’t just a gross margin impact; it’s actually a subtraction from revenue. And so that will mute the revenue growth for the segment because you have that negative as we get into the back half and ship more tablets. …
C.J. Muse – ISI Group: In terms of integrated LTE, you’ve talked about when we’ll first see that. But curious when you expect to bring that in house at Intel.
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: We’ll bring that in on our 14-nanometer process either late 2015 or early 2016. We’re still battling back and forth on how fast we can bring it in and at what impacts that has. 14-nanometer is the technology there.
Blaine Curtis – Barclays Capital: … Maybe actually follows up on CJ’s prior question. The MPG business that you’re now breaking out, it’s pretty clear it’s losing $3 billion, $3.5 billion. How do you think about this business?
Obviously you’re trying to ramp the product set you are a bit behind. You’re entering from the low end and that pricing seems quite tough. You’re facing some subsidies that you have to do on the tablet side.
Are there some milestones that you look at to get this business back profitable? Or maybe would you consider this strategic enough that you would consider continuing to run this as a loss?
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: So, you asked several questions in there, so let me start to pars it apart. Absolutely this is a strategic business, so let’s just start with that. We think this is critical and we said this in our prepared statements. It’s critical from 2 in 1 devices down through the Internet of Things.
You look across the connectivity requirements there; more and more of the devices are requiring integrated connectivity, whether it be LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and all of these connectivities are becoming more and more required.
We don’t go into these businesses thinking that we’re going to lose money. We believe we have a roadmap to get to profitability in that business. The milestones that I look at — and so I’ll give you those for yourself to look at, we have the 7160, the current LTE version out there. We’re the second in LTE. We have the 7260 launch this quarter. I think that’s a critical there.
Again, we’re closing the gap with our competition. We’re bringing out leading edge Cat 6 capability with carrier aggregation. That’s a critical milestone. That puts — that closes the gap and puts us firmly in the LTE capability.
The next one is SoFIA. If you look at the SoFIAs at the end of this year with 3G integration and then a big first half of next year with LTE integration. Remember those products weren’t even on our roadmap six or seven months ago. So, that shows that we’re acting quickly integrating and bringing those products to production.
Then after that is, as Stacy said earlier, Broxton, which is our internal 14-nanometer product. That’s targeted towards the mid to high level. And as we bring that into the second half of 2015 and into 2016, there will be various levels of integration on that.
So, when I look across this, those are the milestones I look at, because those are what drive that along with just the basic cost reduction capabilities we talked about for this year as we get out of this contra revenue into 2015. Those products then place us firmly in leadership capability from the low end to the high end with integration. And those are the milestones to me that will lead to profitability long-term.
Stacy J. Smith – EVP and CFO: And I’ll just add to that, I think you left it off because it was so obvious, but the 40 million tablets is one of the things I see Brian just laser focused on. And as we’ve talked about before, it gets us into the 15% to 20% range of the total tablet market.
It gives us a big enough footprint that we start to see people developing on our architectures. It becomes a self-sustaining ecosystem as we’re bringing these other products to the marketplace. So, don’t lose sight of that one, Blaine.
Stacy Rasgon – Sanford C. Bernstein & Co: I wanted to dig a little bit into the mobile and wireless group. So, you’ve talked a bit about having I guess developing leadership products, leadership position in order to drive profitability. We’re looking at this right now, though. So, we had the business fall more than 50% sequentially.
You have your 7160 which is shipping but apparently it’s not really driving much volume. We have the 7260 which is forthcoming, but we really haven’t heard much about design wins. And you launched at Mobile World Congress without really saying very much there.
We have SoFIA coming, which absolutely is integrated, but it’s being made at TSMC for the next few years which means you lose any potential benefits from your own process technology. And you would seem to be well behind what the market leaders are shipping in terms of 4G.
Just what should we be looking for and over what timeframe should we be looking for, for the ramp? I guess what I’m asking is, how can we get confidence that we’re going to actually see the revenue ramp that is built into the short-term expectations for this year and then going forward, to make sure that you can actually get a profitable business, which obviously would be driving quite a bit of upside to where the models are today?
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: Remember, the 7160, we gave you a series of products that it’s shipping in. And on the 7260, which will qualify this quarter, we gave you a list of OEM partners that have committed to that platform. So, we’re fairly confident that the ramp in the second half of this year will continue on that product. And it is a leadership product.
SoFIA, you’re right, is built at TSMC. We went for speed and integration. And it was simply quicker to get to market with a competitive product from both a price and performance. We actually believe that the IA core will give us better performance than the competition. And the competition is at that same node at TSMC. And it’s 3G at the end of this year and LTE in the first half of next year.
We then told you that in the second half of next year — and again, we’re debating whether it’s the second half or the first quarter of 2016, but we’ll move all of that internal on to 14-nanometers. And it’s really based on other products that we have moving in at that time and just overall resources all right.
We had a lot going on — the ramp of Broadwell, the ramp of Skylake in the second half of next year, plus bringing these products inside. But I’m very confident that when you do that, plus you add in Broxton, which is targeted towards the mid to high range and again is integrated with leading-edge LTE.
And don’t forget we have a roadmap of LTE products beyond the 7260 that continue the level of carrier aggregation and product leadership. We’re fairly confident that we can continue to grow this business and turn it profitable over that time.
Stacy J. Smith – EVP and CFO: And let me just comment on the question about the long-term profitability. It sounds basic, but it really stems from our manufacturing leadership. If we’re two years ahead of the rest of the industry, and extending it gives us the ability that, as we target our products into the right space from a power standpoint, we will have power advantage or performance advantage and a cost advantage.
That really is our strategy playing out. You’re seeing the first products hitting that theme over the course of this year and into early next year. Bay Trail is a really good product. For the high end of the market, you’ll see products coming into the market that are more targeted at the mid-range and lower end of the market next year. But that’s how the strategy plays out.
I’d say for 2015, I would expect to see reduction in the loss. Not profitability, but a reduction in the loss will feel pretty good when we get there and then we’ll keep driving towards the long-term profitability goal.
Stacy Rasgon – Sanford C. Bernstein & Co: I’d like to drill in a bit more. I’m actually into the tablet efforts now. So, we’re obviously subsidizing. And I get the idea of reducing BOM cost in order to make up for the deficiencies with the idea being that you can drive improved product set down the road.
But at the same time, if you look at the tablet market, where it is today, you’re obviously not going to be going after Apple any time soon. Maybe there’s a little bit of volume at Samsung. But I mean if you take those guys out, 75% of what’s left is systems that are $250 and below, where your competitors are shipping quad-core chips for much less than $10.
I’m curious to know what kind of economics and pricing you see from that market long-term. And are the — I guess the total revenue pool and profit pool that’s available, even if you were to succeed at your goals, why does that make it a worthwhile effort to actually go after? Or is this simply, as you said, strategic? Is this an attempt to limit further penetration of tablets into the core market?
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: You’ve asked a question that has multiple questions built into it. But let’s start with what we told you was we’ve got multiple OEM partners building tablets and phones on our products. And we gave you Asus and Dell and Lenovo and Samsung on those products.
If you look at the tablet business overall, it’s broken up into a series of segments. And you’re right; there is a large percentage of them that are $250 and below. Products like SoFIA are specifically designed for that segment.
And our dual-core SoFIA already performs quite well against quad-core systems. As we move into next year, we’ll bring quad-core SoFIA-based products out, as well. And so we believe that we can stay very cost competitive and have a performance leadership.
Remember, Intel has two assets. We have our silicon technology, but we also have our architecture. And one of the things an OEM gets when they build with Intel technology is that they can go into any OS and they can build a single platform and move that on to Chrome, on to Android, on to Windows. And that’s a very unique capability that we provide to OEMs for flexibility.
So, we believe with a product like SoFIA, as we bring that into the market next year, we can absolutely compete in those spaces and make money. You’re probably not going to make as much revenue dollars and as much margin dollars as the PC business, but we think this is still critical. And it’s critical for a variety of reasons. Part of it is simply the scale. You want to have those units. You want to have a presence in all areas of computing.
And the second one is developer attention. You want developers creating new products, doing innovation on your architecture. This is a space that’s got innovation. We are going to bring some of that innovation to this market. You’re going to see some tablets as you go into the end of this year.
We showed them at CES, some of the highlights where you have 3D cameras, you have perceptual computing capabilities for gaming. All of those kinds of things can change the tablet market, along with the PC market.
So, we believe that we can bring a lot of the innovation that we do in the PC down into the tablet space. And again, that keeps the developers developing and interested in our platform. I think for all of those reasons, we want to be in this space and we will be in this space from now on.
Stacy J. Smith – EVP and CFO: That was very complete, but we don’t fear the low end of the market. You look at how we played out in PCs. You can drive a lot of unit growth by participating in PCs now that are $199 to $250. We can have the cost structure because of our manufacturing lead to participate nicely there. And you see that as markets mature, they also segment.
And so we have look, you look at our PC business, we have great demand and profitability in core I7s and it spans down to Bay Trail at the Atom segment of the market. So, it’s a misconception to think that we only want to play at the high end. Our manufacturing leadership can give us the cost structure to play profitably at the low end, as well.
Mark Lipacis – Jefferies: Brian, when you talk about the 40 million unit bogey on tablets this year, could you go through the taxonomy of that a little bit? To what extent do you think this is Windows versus Android? And what’s the class of product you think will represent the mode or the mean? Like where do you think your sweet spot is going to be this year on tablets?
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: Our mix of OSs reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace. So, I think, depending on how you look at it, it’s probably something on the order of 90% Android, 80% Android, 10% to 20% Windows.
Our percentages look very much like the marketplace. So, if Windows continues to grow and gain traction I think our percentage would just align directly to that. So, you can — don’t separate what we ship from what’s basically in the marketplace. We’re leadership capability on all of the OSs now.
As far as what is the price point, again, it reflects fairly close to what the marketplace is. You see us in systems below $100 now. The majority of the systems are say $125 to $250, somewhere in there. And then you see us in some of the upper end systems, $250 to $400. And so — but the majority is in that — I’d call it, $125 to probably $250 range.
Mark Lipacis – Jefferies: And then as a follow-up, did you discuss, do you expect to have the Android tablets ramping in volume this quarter? Are we going to be — should we expect to see the Bay Trail Android products at Computex this year? When do we really see the material ramp in the Android products?
Brian M. Krzanich – CEO: Sure, absolutely. You can go out to the store today and buy an Android — in fact, I’d love you to go buy one of the 40 million we’ll sell. But, yes, you can buy Android. It continues to ramp through this quarter. At Computex, we’ll show a series of Android and Windows-based tablets. And they just continue to ramp through this year. But they’re on shelves today. I saw them in the store this weekend.
Stacy J. Smith – EVP and CFO: The majority of the 5 million units, for example, are Android. Just as Brian said, it more or less follows the distribution between Windows and Android.
Bloomberg (Businessweek) legitimizes Allwinner and Rockchip as challengers to Intel and Qualcomm via the tablet space, as well as Spreadtrum in the smartphone space
Although the title is just:
- Qualcomm, Intel Threatened as Allwinner Nabs Tablet Share [Bloomberg, March 17, 2014]
- Qualcomm, Intel Threatened as Allwinner Gains Tablet Share: Tech [BloombergBusinessweek, March 17, 2014]
Note that for me there is nothing new about those titles as I introduced a whole new blog to the “Allwinner phenomenon” as evidenced with a specially designed banner on the right here:
And the first post of mine, “Hello world! Here is the Allwinner SoC and the ecosystem built around it”, was created 16 months ago, on November 26, 2012. For very well founded reasons which were explained in quite a detail in that post. Please read them as you will learn much more about the Allwinner case than from the whole Bloomberg (Businessweek) articles. Your interest will be more satisfied with quite a number of additional posts in January 2014, October 2013, September 2013, June 2013, April 2013, March 2013, January 2013 and December 2012.
Allwinner’s success is explained now in the Bloomberg (Businessweek) articles by the following quote:
Local chipmakers benefit from their proximity to the device manufacturers because it bolsters their ability to anticipate and react to new features that are in demand, said Ben El-Baz, head of U.S. marketing for Allwinner.
“Shenzhen is really the electronics hub for the world,” El-Baz said in a phone interview. “We are so close to the market that we’re able to come out with new solutions faster than our competitors. We can do it at lower cost.”
as well as the fact that:
The surge in cheaper devices hasn’t gone unnoticed by more established computer makers. Hewlett-Packard this year began selling the HP 8, a $170 tablet that runs on an Allwinner quad-core processor.
In , however, the internal text contains reference to Rockchip as well:
Note that this same blog of mine started to recognize Rockchip 2 years ago with MWC 2012: Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics post which was followed 10 months later with another one claiming no less than China’s HW engineering lead: The Rockchip RK292 series (RK2928 and RK2926) example. Under the Rockchip tag you could find even more recent ones.
Intel Corp. (INTC) and Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), the two largest U.S. chipmakers, are under threat in the fastest-growing part of the tablet market from a band of upstarts with names like Allwinner Technology Co. and Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics Co. that are little known outside southern China.
Allwinner, based in Zhuhai near the manufacturing center of Shenzhen, became the No. 2 tablet-processor maker behind Apple Inc. in 2012 as demand for cheaper tablets stoked sales of its low-cost chips, according to IDC. Qualcomm ranks third, while Intel comes in at No. 6, following Rockchip.
Success at Allwinner, which was founded in 2007, and Rockchip, established in 2001, is being driven by increasing demand for inexpensive tablets in their home market, where some devices sell for as little as $50, and in other developing economies. Sales of tablets that retail for less than $150 and don’t carry a brand name will rise 36 percent this year, IDC estimates, driving a 22 percent increase in total tablet shipments. The market for tablet processors grew 32 percent in 2013 to $3.6 billion, according to Strategy Analytics.
Allwinner accounted for 18.2 million of the 88.3 million tablet processors shipped in the fourth quarter of 2013, IDC said. That was more than three times what Santa Clara, California-based Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, shipped in the same period. Rockchip sold 9 million.
Rockchip representatives didn’t return messages for comment.
Update: China’s Parallel Universe [EE Times, March 26, 2014]
End of update
while both articles contain a whole paragraph devoted to Spreadtrum as well:
Note that this same blog of mine started to recognize Spreadtrum 27 months ago with World’s lowest cost, US$40-50 Android smartphones — sub-$100 retail — are enabled by Spreadtrum post which was followed 7 months later with another one claiming no less than Lowest H2’12 device cost SoCs from Spreadtrum will redefine the entry level smartphone and feature phone markets. Under the Spreadtrum tag you could find even more recent ones.
Like MediaTek, Shanghai-based Spreadtrum Communications Inc. is building on its relationship with handset makers serving the China market and exporting from there. The company, founded in 2001, supplies both processors and modems for smartphones that can retail for as little as $25, said Diana Jovin, a U.S.- based vice president at Spreadtrum.
Her company, which is owned by the Chinese government, has learned that quickly providing adaptable solutions is needed to succeed in a rapidly changing market, she said.
“A significant part of the mobile-handset ecosystem is centered in China,” Jovin said. “We’re the only vendor located in China serving those customers. We’ve expanded our portfolio quite rapidly and have the breadth and depth to compete effectively on a global basis.”
Spreadtrum, which has supplied chips used in Samsung’s Galaxy Star model and HTC Corp.’s Desire, is looking to build on its China base just as Qualcomm, the largest maker of semiconductors used in phones, is trying replicate its worldwide market dominance in that country, the biggest global mobile-phone market.
Regarding the question how the western chipmakers could meet these challenges:
Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich — who has made catching up in mobile computing a priority since taking over the company in May — said he’s aiming to quadruple tablet-chip sales to 40 million this year and processors from his company will make their way into devices costing less than $100. To speed adoption, Intel will provide tablet makers with subsidies — what it calls “contra revenue” — to make the cost of its chips competitive. That will cut into profitability this year.
Kathy Gill, a spokeswoman for Intel, said the company is “absolutely accelerating” its roadmap for its Atom line of low-power, low-cost processors for phones, tablets and budget laptops.
Qualcomm has already responded to the demand for lower-cost devices made in China with new chips, said Cristiano Amon, the head of the company’s chip division.
The adoption of a faster wireless-data technology called long-term evolution, or LTE, particularly by No. 1 wireless carrier China Mobile Ltd., will open the door for Qualcomm, the San Diego-based company says. While other companies including Intel, MediaTek and Broadcom Corp. (BRCM) have announced LTE-capable chips, Qualcomm has been in the market for more than two years and has 100 percent market share in devices that have integrated modems, according to IDC.
Qualcomm’s advantage in LTE modem chips will be tough to beat. Unlike for stand-alone processors, there’s no source of off-the-shelf modem designs [there is, however, highly advanced semiconductor IP on the market with CEVA as the lead vendor in that space which is dating back to CEVA Introduces Low Power, Multi-Mode LTE-Advanced Reference Architecture for the New CEVA-XC4000 DSP Architecture Framework [press release, Feb 21, 2012] – you can find more about that in The future of the semiconductor IP ecosystem post of mine], and building one takes years of experience, testing and qualification work with phone-service providers, according to Will Strauss, an analyst at Mesa, Arizona-based Forward Concepts Co.
In processors, “everybody can get in, thanks to ARM and the ease of implementing your own applications processor. They’ve lowered the bar,” Strauss said. At the same time, “the barrier for entry for LTE modems is still very, very high.”
The articles end, however, with a kind of gloomy outlook for the leadiong Western chipmakers:
I would be much more sceptical about the Western SoC vendors’ capabilities to withstand the onslaught of Chinese SoC vendors (including MediaTek). Even the “lack of modem technology” argument given above applies only to a limited degree as:
See more in: Chinese smartphone brands to conquer the global market? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, March 18, 2014]
Still, Chinese companies have created an obstacle that their more established rivals may struggle to overcome, said Jim McGregor, an analyst at Tirias Research. While the volumes are huge in China and emerging markets, the devices’ low prices leave little room for profits — particularly for companies like Qualcomm and Intel that have shareholders who are accustomed to wide margins, he said.
“We are not just talking about a billion here, but several billion units,” McGregor said. “It’s foolish to avoid that kind of market. The problem is with a publicly traded company, it’s against their instincts to go for it.”
The Cortex-A53 as the Cortex-A7 replacement core is succeeding as a sweet-spot IP for various 64-bit high-volume market SoCs to be delivered from H2 CY14 on
… not suprisingly as it is built on the same micro-architecture. Even Intel will manufacture Cortex-A53 based SoCs for Altera (Stratix 10 FPGA SoCs) in 2015 on its leading edge Tri-Gate (FinFET) 14nm process.
With MediaTek MT6592-based True Octa-core superphones are on the market to beat Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-based ones [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Dec 21, 2013] MediaTek will follow up with a 4G LTE MT6595 version in January, and with a 64-bit version based on Cortex-A53 instead of Cortex-A7 in H2 CY14. In this way it will be able to compete head-on with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 in the most lucrative high-volume market.
According to 大陸4G啟動 聯發科快攻 [Commercial Times, Dec 10, 2013]: “MediaTek MT6590’s first 4G modem chip is expected to begin shipping next month, in addition to 4G systems integration single chip (SoC) MT6595 has appeared earlier this month in the customer’s specification sheet, and 8-core as the main design, not difficult to see MediaTek ambition to expand high-end market.”
MediaTek delivering 4G LTE chips for verification, say paper [DIGITIMES, Dec 18, 2013]
MediaTek reportedly has delivered its first 4G LTE chip, the MT6590, to potential clients for verification. The chips are expected to begin generating revenues for the IC design house in the first quarter of 2014, according to a Chinese-language Liberty Times report. The MT6590 supports five modes and 10 frequency bands.
The news echoes earlier remarks by MediaTek president Hsieh Ching-chiang stating the company plans to launch 4G chips at year-end 2013 with end-market devices powered by the 4G chips to be available in the first quarter of 2014, the paper added.
Citing data from JPMorgan Chase, the paper said shipments of MediaTek’s first 8-core chip, the MT6592, are higher than expected and shipment momentum is likely to continue into the first quarter of 2014.
The latest news: Chipset vendors to showcase 64-bit smartphone solutions at CES 2014 [DIGITIMES, Dec 23, 2013]
Chipset players including Qualcomm, Nvidia, Marvell Technology and Broadcom all are expected to showcase 64-bit processors for smartphone applications at the upcoming CES 2014 trade show, a move which will add pressure on Taiwan-based MediaTek in its efforts to expand market share with its newly released 8-core CPUs, according to industry sources.
Qualcomm has already unveiled a 64-bit-chip, the Snapdragon 410, and is expected to begin sampling in the first half of 2014, according to the company.
Nvidia, which is familiar with 64-bit computing architectures, is expected to start volume production of 64-bit chips for smartphones in the first half of 2014 at the earliest, said industry sources.
Marvell and Broadcom are also expected to highlight their 64-bit chips at CES 2014, kicking off competition in the 64-bit chipset segment, note the sources.
Meanwhile, the vendors, as well as China-based chipset suppliers Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics, will also exert efforts to take market share from MediaTek in the entry-level to mid-range chipset segment in 2014, commented the sources.
From: 64-bit smartphones to be ushered in 2014, say sources [DIGITIMES, Dec 11, 2013]
… Qualcomm has also claimed that the Snapdragon 410 will support all major operating systems, including Android, Windows Phone and Firefox OS and that Qualcomm Reference Design versions of the processor will be available to enable rapid development time and reduce OEM R&D, designed to provide a comprehensive mobile device platform. However, the observers noted that the Snapdragon 410 chips are aiming at the mid-range LTE smartphone segment, particularly the sub-CNY1,000 (US$165) sector in China. The launch of the mid-range 64-bit Snapdragon chips also aims to widen its lead against Taiwan-based rival MediaTek in the China market, the sources added. Qualcomm said the Snapdragon 410 processor is expected to be in commercial devices in the second half of 2014. …
Samsung Electronics is also believed to be working on its own 64-bit CPUs in house and expected to launch 64-bit capable flagship models in the first half of 2014 at the earliest, said the observers.
The 64-bit versions of CPUs from MediaTek, Broadcom and Nvidia are likely to come in late 2014 or in 2015, added the sources.
Google is expected to accelerate the upgrading of its Android platform, providing an environment for software developers to work on related 64-bit applications, commented the sources.
Taiwan IC suppliers developing chips for MediaTek smartphone solutions [DIGITIMES, Dec 18, 2013]
MediaTek’s growing shipments of smartphone solutions, which are expected to top 200 million units in 2013 and 300 million units in 2014, have encouraged Taiwan-based suppliers of LCD driver ICs, power management ICs, ambient light sensors, gyroscopes, touchscreen controller ICs and MEMS microphones to develop chips that can be incorporated into these smartphone solutions, according to industry sources.
MediaTek has been focusing its R&D efforts on developments of 4- and 8-core and 4G CPUs as well as wireless chips in order to maintain its competitiveness, while relying on other IC vendors to complete its smartphone solution platforms, the sources noted.
With MediaTek’s smartphone solution shipments expected to reach 30 million units a month in 2014, any suppliers which can deliver IC parts for MediaTek’s smartphone platforms will see their revenues and profits grow substantially in 2014, the sources said.
4G LTE, 64-Bit Processing Expands Qualcomm Technologies’ Global Product Offerings and Reference Design Program
SAN DIEGO – December 09, 2013 – Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., has introduced the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 410 chipset with integrated 4G LTE World Mode. The delivery of faster connections is important to the growth and adoption of smartphones in emerging regions, and Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets are poised to address the needs of consumers as 4G LTE begins to ramp in China.
The new Snapdragon 410 chipsets are manufactured using 28nm process technology. They feature processors that are 64-bit capable along with superior graphics performance with the Adreno 306 GPU, 1080p video playback and up to a 13 Megapixel camera. Snapdragon 410 chipsets integrate 4G LTE and 3G cellular connectivity for all major modes and frequency bands across the globe and include support for Dual and Triple SIM. Together with Qualcomm RF360 Front End Solution, Snapdragon 410 chipsets will have multiband and multimode support. Snapdragon 410 chipsets also feature Qualcomm Technologies’ Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM and NFC functionality, and support all major navigation constellations: GPS, GLONASS, and China’s new BeiDou, which helps deliver enhanced accuracy and speed of Location data to Snapdragon-enabled handsets.
The chipset also supports all major operating systems, including the Android, Windows Phone and Firefox operating systems. Qualcomm Reference Design versions of the processor will be available to enable rapid development time and reduce OEM R&D, designed to provide a comprehensive mobile device platform. The Snapdragon 410 processor is anticipated to begin sampling in the first half of 2014 and expected to be in commercial devices in the second half of 2014.
Qualcomm Technologies also announced for the first time the intention to make 4G LTE available across all of the Snapdragon product tiers. The Snapdragon 410 processor gives the 400 product tier several 4G LTE options for high-volume mobile devices, as the third LTE-enabled solution in the product tier. By offering 4G LTE variants to its entry level smartphone lineup, Qualcomm Technologies ensures that emerging regions are equipped for this transition while also having every major 2G and 3G technology available to them. Qualcomm Technologies offers OEMs and operators differentiation through a rich feature set upon which to build innovative high-volume smartphones for budget-conscious consumers.
“We are excited to bring 4G LTE to highly affordable smartphones at a sub $150 ( ̴ 1,000 RMB) price point with the introduction of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor,” said Jeff Lorbeck, senior vice president and chief operating officer, Qualcomm Technologies, China. “The Snapdragon 410 chipset will also be the first of many 64-bit capable processors as Qualcomm Technologies helps lead the transition of the mobile ecosystem to 64-bit processing.”
Qualcomm Technologies will release the Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) version of the Snapdragon 410 processor with support for Qualcomm RF360™ Front End Solution. The QRD program offers Qualcomm Technologies’ leading technical innovation, easy customization options, the QRD Global Enablement Solution which features regional software packages, modem configurations, testing and acceptance readiness for regional operator requirements, and access to a broad ecosystem of hardware component vendors and software application developers. Under the QRD program, customers can rapidly deliver differentiated smartphones to value-conscious consumers. There have been more than 350 public QRD-based product launches to date in collaboration with more than 40 OEMs in 18 countries.
Note that just 18 days before that there was the news that Qualcomm Technologies Announces Next Generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 “Ultra HD” Processor [press release, Nov 20, 2013]
Mobile Technology Leader Announces its Highest Performance Processor Designed to Deliver the Highest Quality Mobile Video, Camera and Graphics to Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Tier
NEW YORK – November 20, 2013 – Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., introduced the next generation mobile processor of the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 800 tier, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor, which is designed to deliver the highest-quality mobile video, imaging and graphics experiences at Ultra HD (4K) resolution, both on device and via Ultra HD TVs. Featuring the new Adreno 420 GPU, with up to 40 percent more graphics processing power than its predecessor, the Snapdragon 805 processor is the first mobile processor to offer system-level Ultra HD support, 4K video capture and playback and enhanced dual camera Image Signal Processors (ISPs), for superior performance, multitasking, power efficiency and mobile user experiences.
The Snapdragon 805 processor is Qualcomm Technologies’ newest and highest performing Snapdragon processor to date, featuring:
– Blazing fast apps and web browsing and outstanding performance: Krait 450 quad-core CPU, the first mobile CPU to run at speeds of up to 2.5 GHz per core, plus superior memory bandwidth support of up to 25.6 GB/second that is designed to provide unprecedented multimedia and web browsing performance.
– Smooth, sharp user interface and games support Ultra HD resolution: The mobile industry’s first end-to-end Ultra HD solution with on-device display concurrent with output to HDTV; features Qualcomm Technologies’ new Adreno 420 GPU, which introduces support for hardware tessellation and geometry shaders, for advanced 4K rendering, with even more realistic scenes and objects, visually stunning user interface, graphics and mobile gaming experiences at lower power.
– Fast, seamless connected mobile experiences: Custom, efficient integration with either the Qualcomm® Gobi™ MDM9x25 or the Gobi MDM9x35 modem, powering superior seamless connected mobile experiences. The Gobi MDM9x25 chipset announced in February 2013 has seen significant adoption as the first embedded, mobile computing solution to support LTE carrier aggregation and LTE Category 4 with superior peak data rates of up to 150Mbps. Additionally, Qualcomm’s most advanced Wi-Fi for mobile, 2-stream dual-band Qualcomm® VIVE™ 802.11ac, enables wireless 4K video streaming and other media-intensive applications. With a low-power PCIe interface to the QCA6174, tablets and high-end smartphones can take advantage of faster mobile Wi-Fi performance (over 600 Mbps), extended operating range and concurrent Bluetooth connections, with minimal impact on battery life.
– Ability to stream more video content at higher quality using less power: Support for Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) for video post processing, first to introduce hardware 4K HEVC (H.265) decode for mobile for extremely low-power HD video playback.
– Sharper, higher resolution photos in low light and advanced post-processing features: First Gpixel/s throughput camera support in a mobile processor designed for a significant increase in camera speed and imaging quality. Sensor processing with gyro integration enables image stabilization for sharper, crisper photos. Qualcomm Technologies is the first to announce a mobile processor with advanced, low-power, integrated sensor processing, enabled by its custom DSP, designed to deliver a wide range of sensor-enabled mobile experiences.
“Using a smartphone or tablet powered by Snapdragon 805 processor is like having an UltraHD home theater in your pocket, with 4K video, imaging and graphics, all built for mobile,” said Murthy Renduchintala, executive vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., and co-president, QCT. “We’re delivering the mobile industry’s first truly end-to-end Ultra HD solution, and coupled with our industry leading Gobi LTE modems and RF transceivers, streaming and watching content at 4K resolution will finally be possible.”
The Snapdragon 805 processor is sampling now and expected to be available in commercial devices by the first half of 2014.
The original value proposition was presented in the brief Brian Jeff highlights the ARM® Cortex™-A53 processor [ARMflix YouTube channel, Oct 30, 2012] video as follows
The Top 5 Things to Know about Cortex-A53 [Brian Jeff on ‘ARM Connected Community’, Oct 28, 2013]
The Cortex-A53 was introduced to the market in October 2012, delivering the ARMv8 instruction set and significantly increased performance in a highly efficient power and area footprint. It is available for licensing now, and will be deployed in silicon in early 2014 by multiple ARM partners. There are a few key aspects of the Cortex-A53 that developers, OEMs, and SoC designers should know:
1. ARM low power / high efficiency heritage
The ARM9 is the most licensed processor in ARM’s history with over 250 licenses sold. It identified a very important power/cost sweet spot.The Cortex-A5 (launched in 2009) was designed to fit in the CPU same power and area footprint,
while delivering significantly higher performance and power-efficiency, and bring it to modern ARMv7 feature set – software compatibility with the high end of the processor roadmap (then Cortex-A9)
The Cortex-A53 is built around a simple pipeline, 8 stages long with in-order execution like the Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A5 processors that preceded it. An instruction traversing a simple pipeline requires fewer registers and switches less logic to fetch, decode, issue, execute, and write back the results than a more complex pipeline microarchitecture. Simpler pipelines are smaller and lower power. The high efficiency Cortex-A CPU product line, consisting of Cortex-A5, Cortex-A7, and Cortex-A53, takes a design approach prioritizing efficiency first, then seeking as much performance as possible at the maximum efficiency. The added performance in each successive generation in this series comes from advances in the memory system, increasing dual-issue capability, expanded internal busses, and improved branch prediction.
2. ARM v8-A Architecture
The Cortex-A53 is fully compliant with the ARMv8-A architecture, which is the latest ARM architecture and introduces support for 64b operation while maintaining 100% backward compatibility with the broadly deployed ARMv7 architecture. The processor can switch between AArch32 and AArch64 modes of operation to allow 32bit apps and 64bit apps to run together on top of a 64bit operating system. This dual execution state support allows maximum flexibility for developers and SoC designers in managing the rollout of 64bit support in different markets. ARMv8-A brings additional features (more registers, new instructions) that bring increased performance and Cortex-A53 is able to take advantage of these.
3. Higher performance than Cortex-A9: smaller and more efficient too
The Cortex-A9 features an out-of-order pipeline, dual issue capability, and a longer pipeline than Cortex-A53 that enables 15% higher frequency operation. However the Cortex-A53 achieves higher single thread performance by pushing a simpler design farther – some of the key factors enabling the performance of the Cortex-A53 include the integrated low latency level 2 cache, the larger 512 entry main TLB, and the complex branch predictor. The Cortex-A9 has set the bar for the high end of the smartphone market through 2012 – by matching and exceeding that level of performance in a smaller footprint and power budget, the Cortex-A53 delivers performance to entry level devices that was previously enjoyed by high-end flagship mobile devices – in a lower power budget and at lower cost. The graph below compares the single thread performance of the high efficiency Cortex-A processors with the Cortex-A9. At the same frequency, Cortex-A53 delivers more than 20% higher instruction throughput than the Cortex-A9 for representative workloads.
4. Supports big.LITTLE with Cortex-A57
The Cortex-A53 is architecturally identical to the higher performance Cortex-A57 processor, and can be integrated with it in a big.LITTLE processor subsystem. big.LITTLE enables peak performance and extreme efficiency by distributing work to the right-sized processor for the task at hand.
It is described in more detail here – Ten Things to Know About big.LITTLE
The diagram above shows Cortex-A53 combined with Cortex-A57 and a Mali-T628Graphics processor in an example system. The CCI-400 cache coherent interconnect allows the 2 CPU clusters to be combined in a seamless way that allows software to manage the task allocation in a highly transparent way, as described in <link – software>. The big.LITTLE system enables peak performance at low average power.
Cortex-A53 in ideal for use in a standalone use scenario, delivering excellent performance at very low power and area enabling new features to be supported in the low cost smartphone segments Our new LITTLE processor packs a performance punch.
Read more about that in a somewhat humorous blog on Cortex-A53 from the product launch – ARM Cortex-A53 — Who You callin’ LITTLE?
5. Extensive feature set for broad application support
The Cortex-A53 includes a feature set that allows it to be configured and optimized through physical implementation tailored to mobile SoCs and to scalable enterprise systems
- AMBA 4 ACE Coherent bus
- big.LITTLE processing (2 CPU Clusters) with CCI-400 interconnect
- AMBA5 CHI Coherent bus
Scalable to 4 or more coherent CPU clustersfor low-cost servers or networking infrastructure devices.
- 16-core systems with CCN-504 or 32-core systems with CCN-508 – all on a single silicon die.
Small area, low power design
Optimized for <150mW envelope
Small area, low power design.
Likely still optimized for 150 mW. However, higher performance implementations can be used
ECC, parity available, but configurable if not needed
ECC and parity protection required for enterprise applications
- ARM Announces New High-Performance System IP to Address Demand for Energy-Efficient ‘Many-core’ Solutions for the Enterprise Market [press release, Oct 10, 2012]: “To address the significant increase in data over the next 10-15 years, and the demand for more energy-efficient network infrastructure and servers, ARM has announced the ARM® CoreLink™ CCN-504 cache coherent network. This advanced system intellectual property (IP) can deliver up to one terabit of usable system bandwidth per second.”
- ARM Launches Cortex-A50 Series, the World’s Most Energy-Efficient 64-bit Processors [press release, Oct 30, 2012]
- ARM Announces POP IP for Cortex-A50 Series Processors on TSMC 28nm HPM and 16nm FinFET Processes [press release, April 9, 2013]
- ARM Announces AMBA 5 CHI Specification to Enable High Performance, Highly Scalable System on Chip Technology [press release, June 3, 2013]
- Huawei announces global agreement to licence ARMv8 architecture – Agreement underlines Huawei’s commitment to IPR and the UK [Huawei press release, Sept 4, 2013]
- From: AMD Details Embedded Product Roadmap [AMD press release, Sept 9, 2013]:
“ ‘Hierofalcon’ CPU SoC ‘Hierofalcon’ is the first 64-bit ARM-based platform from AMD targeting embedded data center applications, communications infrastructure and industrial solutions. It will include up to eight ARM Cortex™-A57 CPUs expected to run up to 2.0 GHz, and provides high-performance memory with two 64-bit DDR3/4 channels with error correction code (ECC) for high reliability applications. The highly integrated SoC includes 10 Gb KR Ethernet and PCI-Express Gen 3 for high-speed network connectivity, making it ideal for control plane applications. The “Hierofalcon” series also provides enhanced security with support for ARM TrustZone® technology and a dedicated cryptographic security co-processor, aligning to the increased need for networked, secure systems. “Hierofalcon” is expected to be sampling in the second quarter of 2014 with production in the second half of the year.”
- MediaTek extends partnership with ARM to drive next-generation mobile and consumer technology [joint press release, Oct 8, 2013]: “MediaTek has acquired a broad license to Cortex-A50 Series processor cores and the next generation of ARM Mali graphics processing Unit (GPU) solutions.”
- Broadcom Announces Server-Class ARMv8-A Multi-Core Processor Architecture –Optimized to Deliver Industry’s Highest Performance for Next-Generation Networking and Communications Applications [Broadcom press release, Oct 15, 2013]:
- Quad-issue, quad-threaded 64-bit ARMv8-A core with superscalar out-of-order execution delivers true server-class performance
- Core enables 3-GHz performance in the advanced 16-nm FINFET process node
- Partnership with ARM aims to define and develop an open, ISA-independent Network Function Virtualization (NFV) software environment
- Coherent Interconnect Technology Supports Exponential Data Flow Growth [Ian Forsyth on ‘ARM Connected Community’, Oct 26, 2013]: “Recently I presented “Coherent Interconnect Technology Supports Exponential Data Flow Growth” at the Linley Processor conference in Santa Clara, CA where I announced a new ARM coherent interconnect product for enterprise applications, the CoreLink CCN-508. … CoreLink CCN-508 is a cache coherent network providing support for up to 32 fully coherent cores. Supported cores include Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A53.” From: “ARM is just beginning to engage with customers for the CCN-508, and it expects the first SoCs using this IP to enter production in late 2014 or early 2015.”
- Rockchip extends partnership with arm by subscription license of ATM processor and GPU technologies [press release, Nov 5, 2013]
ARM Cortex-A53 — Who You callin’ LITTLE? [Brian Jeff on ‘ARM Connected Community’, Oct 30, 2013]
I may only weigh in at just over half a square millimeter on die, but I can handle a heavy workload and I pack quite a processing punch, and frankly I’m tired of the lack of respect I get as a “LITTLE” processor. I am the CortexTM-A53 processor from ARM, some of you may have previously known me by my code name “Apollo”. Despite being three times as efficient as my big brother, the Cortex-A57, and delivering more performance than today’s current heavyweight champ the Cortex-A9, I am often overlooked.
Processor designers and consumers alike look to the big core, the top end MHz figure, and the number of big processors in the system when they evaluate devices like premium smartphones and tablets. What they don’t realize is that I’m the one running during most of the time the mobile applications cluster is awake, and I’m the one that will enable improvements in battery life even as delivered peak performance increases dramatically. It is high time that the LITTLE processor gets the respect and appreciation that is due.
I’m speaking not just for myself here, but for my close cousin the Cortex-A7. We’re built from the same DNA, so to speak, sharing the same 8-stage pipeline and in-order structure. We both consume about the same level of power on our respective production process nodes, and although I bring added performance and support 64-bit, we are both quite alike. We are 100% code compatible for 32-bit code after all. And yet we don’t get the respect we deserve. It is an injustice, really.
In high-end mobile devices, my cousin the Cortex-A7 is always telling me how everyone wants to hear about how fast the Cortex-A15 is in the system, how many Cortex-A15 CPUs are in the system, and how many MaliTM GPU cores are built into the SoC. They don’t even notice if there are four Cortex-A7 cores in the design capable of delivering plenty of performance — more performance than a lot of smartphones in the market today. They just expect battery life to improve without giving any credit to the LITTLE processor that makes it possible.
Well they will soon see… big.LITTLE processors are coming into the market next year, nearly sampling already, and the capability of the LITTLE processor will be in full view, let me tell you.
Oh, and another thing — in the enterprise space, what they call “big Iron” — there is almost no recognition of the worth of small processors there. Sure, new designs are considering LITTLE processors in many-core topologies with ARM’s CoreLinkTM Cache Coherent Network (CCN) interconnect, but look at the products that are deployed today — they are mostly based on big cores, the bigger the better. Nowhere is this more evident than in the server space, where IT managers brag about how big their server racks are. Just wait and see. New server processors are being developed based on ARM, where even my big brother the Cortex-A57 is about an order of magnitude smaller and lower power than the incumbent processors. I’m in a different weight class altogether, but I can hang with the big boys on total performance. Purpose-built servers using lots of Cortex-A53 cores can deliver even more aggregate performance in a given power and thermal envelope. But are we LITTLE cores getting much attention in servers today? No. Well just watch and see. In 2015 when the first Cortex-A50 series 64-bit processors are built for lower power servers, you won’t be able to help but notice that LITTLE processors can get key jobs done in a lot less energy.
So I may be the same size relative to my Cortex-A57 big brother as the Cortex-A7 is to the Cortex-A15, but OEMs and consumers better not underestimate me. I’ve been going through intensive work these past 2 years to build up my muscles in the places that count: my SIMD performance is way up thanks to the improved NEONTM architectural support in ARMv8 and a much wider NEON datapath. I can dual-issue almost anything. My memory system is also juiced up, as is my branch predictor capability. That’s how I can pack a bigger punch than Cortex-A9 at around a quarter the power in our respective process nodes.
That’s all I’m saying, man. You gotta respect the LITTLE processor.
From the earlier: Answered by the Experts: ARM’s Cortex A53 Lead Architect, Peter Greenhalgh [AnandTech, Dec 17, 2013]
Cortex-A53 has been designed to be able to easily replace Cortex-A7. For example, Cortex-A7 supports the same bus-interface standards (and widths) as Cortex-A7 which allows a partner who has already built a Cortex-A7 platform to rapidly convert to Cortex-A53.
A Cortex-A53 cluster only supports up to 4-cores. If more than 4-cores are required in a platform then multiple clusters can be implemented and coherently connected using an interconnect such as CCI-400. The reason for not scaling to 8-cores per cluster is that the L2 micro-architecture would need to either compromise energy-efficiency in the 1-4 core range to achieve performance in the 4-8 core range, or compromise performance in the 4-8 core range to maximise energy-efficiency in the 1-4 core range.
We expect to see a range of platform configurations using Cortex-A53. A 4+4 Cortex-A53 platform configuration is fully supported and a logical progression from a 4+4 Cortex-A7 platform.
We’re pretty happy with the 8-stage (integer) Cortex-A53 pipeline and it has served us well across the Cortex-A53, Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A5 family. So far it’s scaled nicely from 65nm to 16nm and frequencies approaching 2GHz so there’s no reason to think this won’t hold true in the future.
Cortex-A53 has the same pipeline length as Cortex-A7 so I would expect to see similar frequencies when implemented on the same process geometry. Within the same pipeline length the design team focussed on increasing dual-issue, in-order performance as far as we possibly could. This involved symmetric dual-issue of most of the instruction set, more forwarding paths in the datapaths, reduced issue latency, larger & more associative TLB, vastly increased conditional and indirect branch prediction resources and expanded instruction and data prefetching. The result of all these changes is an increase in SPECInt-2000 performance from 0.35-SPEC/Mhz on Cortex-A7 to 0.50-SPEC/Mhz on Cortex-A53. This should provide a noticeable performance uplift on the next generation of smartphones using Cortex-A53.
Due to the power-efficiency of Cortex-A53 on a 28nm platform, all 4 cores can comfortably be executing at 1.4GHz in less than 750mW which is easily sustainable in a current smartphone platform even while the GPU is in operation.
The performance per watt (energy efficiency) of Cortex-A53 is very similar to Cortex-A7. Certainly within the variation you would expect with different implementations. Largely this is down to learning from Cortex-A7 which was applied to Cortex-A53 both in performance and power.
Intel to make ARM Processors, firstly 64bit 14nm ARM Cortex-A53 ARMv8 for Altera [Charbax YouTube channel, Oct 31, 2013]
Altera Announces Quad-Core 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 for Stratix 10 SoCs [press release, Oct 29, 2013]
Manufactured on Intel’s 14 nm Tri-Gate Process, Altera Stratix® 10 SoCs Will Deliver Industry’s Most Versatile Heterogeneous Computing Platform
Santa Clara, Calif., ARM TechCon, October 29, 2013—Altera Corporation (NASDAQ: ALTR) today announced that its Stratix 10 SoC devices, manufactured on Intel’s 14 nm Tri-Gate process, will incorporate a high-performance, quad-core 64-bit ARM Cortex™-A53 processor system, complementing the device’s floating-point digital signal processing (DSP) blocks and high-performance FPGA fabric. Coupled with Altera’s advanced system-level design tools, including OpenCL, this versatile heterogeneous computing platform will offer exceptional adaptability, performance, power efficiency and design productivity for a broad range of applications, including data center computing acceleration, radar systems and communications infrastructure.
From: Intel fabs Altera’s Stratix 10 FPGA with four ARM A53 cores [SemiAccurate, Nov 5, 2013]: Altera representatives at Techcon said that the beast would tape out in Q4/2014 or about a year from now.
From: Pigs Fly. Altera Goes with ARM on Intel 14nm [SemiWiki.com, Oct 29, 2013]:
I asked Altera about the schedule for all of this. Currently they have over 100 customers using the beta release of their software to model their applications in the Stratix 10. They have taped out a test-chip that is currently in the Intel fab. In the first half of next year they will have a broader release of the software to everyone. They will tape out the actual designs late in 2014 and have volume production starting in early 2015.
Why did they pick this processor? It has the highest power efficiency of any 64-bit processor. Plus it is backwards compatible with previous Altera families which used (32-bit) ARM Cortex-A9. The A53 has a 32-bit mode that is completely binary compatible with the A9. As I reported last week from the Linley conference, ARM is on a roll into communications infrastructure, enterprise and datacenter so there is a huge overlap between the target markets for the A53 and the target markets for the Stratix 10 SoCs.
The ARM Cortex-A53 processor, the first 64-bit processor used on a SoC FPGA, is an ideal fit for use in Stratix 10 SoCs due to its performance, power efficiency, data throughput and advanced features. The Cortex-A53 is among the most power efficient of ARM’s application-class processors, and when delivered on the 14 nm Tri-Gate process will achieve more than six times more data throughput compared to today’s highest performing SoC FPGAs. The Cortex-A53 also delivers important features, such as virtualization support, 256TB memory reach and error correction code (ECC) on L1 and L2 caches. Furthermore, the Cortex-A53 core can run in 32-bit mode, which will run Cortex-A9 operating systems and code unmodified, allowing a smooth upgrade path from Altera’s 28 nm and 20 nm SoC FPGAs.
“ARM is pleased to see Altera adopting the lowest power 64-bit architecture as an ideal complement to DSP and FPGA processing elements to create a cutting-edge heterogeneous computing platform,” said Tom Cronk, executive vice president and general manager, Processor Division, ARM. “The Cortex-A53 processor delivers industry-leading power efficiency and outstanding performance levels, and it is supported by the ARM ecosystem and its innovative software community.”
Leveraging Intel’s 14 nm Tri-Gate process and an enhanced high-performance architecture, Altera Stratix 10 SoCs will have a programmable-logic performance level of more than 1GHz; two times the core performance of current high-end 28 nm FPGAs.
“High-end networking and communications infrastructure are rapidly migrating toward heterogeneous computing architectures to achieve maximum system performance and power efficiency,” said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at The Linley Group, a leading embedded research firm. “What Altera is doing with its Stratix 10 SoC, both in terms of silicon convergence and high-level design tool support, puts the company at the forefront of delivering heterogeneous computing platforms and positions them well to capitalize on myriad opportunities.”
By standardizing on ARM processors across its three-generation SoC portfolio, Altera will offer software compatibility and a common ARM ecosystem of tools and operating system support. Embedded developers will be able to accelerate debug cycles with Altera’s SoC Embedded Design Suite (EDS) featuring the ARM Development Studio 5 (DS-5™) Altera® Edition toolkit, the industry’s only FPGA-adaptive debug tool, as well as use Altera’s software development kit (SDK) for OpenCL to create heterogeneous implementations using the OpenCL high-level design language.
“With Stratix 10 SoCs, designers will have a versatile and powerful heterogeneous compute platform enabling them to innovate and get to market faster,” said Danny Biran, senior vice president, corporate strategy and marketing at Altera. “This will be very exciting for customers as converged silicon continues to be the best solution for complex, high-performance applications.”
Altera® programmable solutions enable designers of electronic systems to rapidly and cost effectively innovate, differentiate and win in their markets. Altera offers FPGAs, SoCs, CPLDs, ASICs and complementary technologies, such as power management, to provide high-value solutions to customers worldwide. Follow Altera viaFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and RSS, andsubscribe to product update emails and newsletters. altera.com
My Altera will use Intel Custom Foundry’s 14 nm Tri-Gate (FinFET) process services to produce its new high-end SoC FPGA with 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 IP [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Nov 1, 2013] post was already answering in detail the following questions that arised from the above announcement:
- Why FPGAs? Why more FPGAs?
- Why SoC FPGAs?
- Why ARM with FPGA on the Intel Tri-Gate (FinFET) process, and why now?
- OpenCL for FPGAs
- Altera SoC FPGAs