Qualcomm’s Quandary – Short supply, rejection, and stiff competition
Tim Whibley posted on August 29, 2012 | 4619 views

I recently wrote about Qualcomm’s struggle in maintaining supply of its 28nm Snapdragon S4 mobile chips, in which TSMC (Qualcomm’s main supplier) has experienced significant yield issues with the process. This left Qualcomm scrambling for solutions to solve the supply shortage, which it turns out included making a failed offer of a strategic investment to TSMC in return for supply guarantees, as reported by Bloomberg.

TSMC’s chairman had earlier teased the industry by claiming that he would even consider dedicating an entire fab to a single customer if it made sense. Well, apparently it didn’t make sense because TSMC rejected investment offers from both Apple and Qualcomm for exclusive fab access, the two customers that represent the lion’s share of silicon production.

It seems that supply shortage is not the only threat facing the Snapdragon 4. Leaked documents from Intel disclose a roadmap that includes a quad-core Atom processor code named Valleyview that is intended for the same quad core mobile market as the Snapdragon S4, Samsung Exynos, Tegra 3, and OMAP 5 (dual core). It is unclear whether Intel’s mobile offering will be able to compete with the incumbents, but the leaked specs are impressive, including an integrated GPU with 7 times the performance of the current Medfield chips.

Oh, and did I mention that the Valleyview will use Intel’s proven FinFET 22nm process? Intel also happens to own its foundries and has firm control over its supply chain, something that Qualcomm cannot currently boast.

Will Intel be a real threat in the mobile chip market? Will Qualcomm solve its supply issues before any real damage is done? Or perhaps the next generation of Snapdragon and Tegra 4 processors will arrive in time and steal Intel’s thunder?

Chime in with your thoughts below. 

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