Like its competitors MediaTek and Samsung, Qualcomm buys the rights to exploit its cores from ARM. But that could change. With the takeover of Nuvia, the manufacturer of the Snapdragon chips would decide to follow in Apple’s footsteps by creating its own architecture and its own hearts internally.
For years, Qualcomm has been content to integrate cores designed by the British group ARM into its various SoCs. The recent Snapdragon 888, the latest flagship of the Californian giant, is thus adorned with a Cortex-X1 core, three Cortex-A78 cores and four Cortex-A55 cores, all directly from the English group recently acquired by Nvidia. Nevertheless, it seems that a paradigm shift is about to materialize at Qualcomm. A change that would involve the in-house design of its own ARM cores.
This is what Apple has been doing for years for iPhone and iPad chips, but also for its brilliant M1 chip, dedicated to the new generation of Macs. A processor that Qualcomm would also like to compete with an SoC already in development.
Qualcomm ready to stand on its own two feet?
To do this, Qualcomm would rely on its latest big acquisition: Nuvia. This takeover, which we mentioned a few weeks ago, is not trivial. It allows Qualcomm to get its hands on a start-up that already has the most promising high-performance architecture and core. Nicknamed “Phoenix”, the latter would be strong enough to eclipse Intel and AMD in terms of performance and energy control. Better still, Nuvia is made up of former engineers from Google, Apple, Broadcom and even AMD. Among them, a certain Gerard Williams III, ex-chief CPU architect of Apple, who probably laid some groundwork in the development of the M1 chip.
Valid point. Wonder how long it’ll be until Qualcomm goes to an architectural license like Apple, considering that is much lower cost than its current top-tier license.
— Anshel Sag (@anshelsag) February 3, 2021
Developing its hearts internally would make a lot of sense for Qualcomm. Subject to sufficient performance, the firm could once again distance Samsung and its recent Exynos processors. Based for a few months on the same ARM cores as the last Snapdragon, the latter manage to compete effectively with Qualcomm in the field of SoC for smartphones. Developing its own cores would also be of prime financial interest for Qualcomm: it would no longer need to pay ARM for licenses to operate Cortex cores.