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Summary:

As part of Qualcomm’s effort to gain an edge over Intel, the wireless chip giant plans to skip the current cutting-edge technology and go straight to making 28-nanometer chips. If done well, Qualcomm’s chips will perform better and cost less, giving it an advantage.

Qualcomm said today that when it comes to making its next-generation chips smaller, it will skip a generation. As part of its effort to gain an edge over rival Intel, the wireless chip giant plans to start manufacturing 28-nanometer chips, blowing past the 32-nanometer technology most chipmakers are implementing as cutting edge today — including Intel, which touted such a move just yesterday. Qualcomm is currently making 45-nanometer chips.

At one time, the two ruled different roosts — Intel, the PC industry, and Qualcomm, mobile devices — but as Intel moves down market into phones with its Atom chips (it just showed off a smartphone containing its Moorestown processor) and Qualcomm pushes its ARM-based processors into smartbooks, the two are increasingly fighting one another for business (GigaOM Pro, subscription required).

So what does that have to do with smaller chips? Shrinking a chip makes it smaller, faster, cheaper to manufacture on a per-unit basis, and more energy efficient –all good things when it comes to mobile devices. If Qualcomm can successfully leap ahead of the rest of the industry, its chips will perform better and cost less, giving it a significant advantage.

Qualcomm is teaming up with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. to move its chips down the process node, starting around the middle of this year.  Intel has traditionally exploited this advantage to either boost its profits or increase its margin share against its rival AMD. Giving Qualcomm that same ability could make Intel’s already difficult move down market into mobile harder and less profitable.

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  1. @Stacey,

    I’m particularly excited about the increasing competition in the mobile computing space as I think consumers will be the big winner here. I really like the idea of smartbooks due to less OS and software bloat that is currently unavoidable on Windows laptops. IP centric mobile computing is ideal in my opinion, and will drive more innovation in web services and cloud computing. Hence Qualcomm and Intel are doing a great job moving the technology industry forward.

    My $.02.

    Best.

    1. Stacey Higginbotham Curtis Monday, January 11, 2010

      Curtis, you’ve been great about offering us several cents worth of commentary lately. Are you sending us a bill? :)

  2. Intel’s Results Rocked, But It Can’t Count On the Old Guard – GigaOM Thursday, January 14, 2010

    [...] phones. Qualcomm is also leaping past Intel’s 32-nanometer manufacturing technology, and will produce 28-nanometer chips. In phones and in many new types of mobile devices, that advantage could help deliver faster chips [...]

  3. Intel’s game will be lost when the combined processing power of ARM processors delivered in a certain quarter will be more than x64/x86’s. I believe we will see it as soon as Cortex A9 hits the consumer market.

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