Qualcomm hints at future data centre and edge compute products

Strong-arms Q4 and the year as China fuels 5G sales

Qualcomm has hinted at future compute-centric products for the network edge and even the data centre.

Speaking on the company's Q4 and full-year 2020 [PDF] earnings call, CEO Steve Mollenkopf told investors Qualcomm is "investing in next-generation infrastructure and edge compute, two areas today that we believe will create significant opportunities in several years."

Mollenkopf also noted that over a billion AI-capable devices use Qualcomm inference technology, leaving the company "well positioned to extend our smartphone AI leadership into growing applications such as data centres, edge appliances and 5G infrastructure."

"Our objective is to provide technology differentiation that will enable us to achieve a leadership position," the CEO said, adding: "As the cloud converges with the mobile Internet, wireless networks are transforming and becoming virtualized. Beyond the cost and operational benefits for service providers, virtualization is enabling new service provider models where infrastructure is intersecting with digital services such as you have seen with Rakuten and Jio."

Qualcomm clearly wants in on all of that, but Mollenkopf didn't say exactly what products would get it there or detail what the company's ambitions might be on the edge or the data centre.

Someone chasing after 5G

Qualcomm and India’s top telco strike 5G pact, hit 1Gbps in trials


At this point readers may wish to recall that in December 2018 the company substantially reduced an effort to build server CPUs and said it would instead pursue "upcoming compute opportunities at the edge of 5G networks and AI inference cloud solutions." In 2019, the company also ended a data centre-centric joint venture in China.

Which leaves Qualcomm having all but quit the data centre while telling the world it likes the look of the edge. Fast-forward two years and it's saying it has products in the works for the former but is still working on the latter.

Whatever it has up its sleeve, it will almost certainly be based on Arm cores, which could represent a huge market for the architecture.

Mollenkopf's remarks came after he revealed Q4 non-GAAP revenue of $6.5bn, $200m above the upper estimate of the company's guidance. Net income came in at $1.67bn. The company's hardware business – known as QCT (Qualcomm CDMA Technologies) – was responsible for $5bn of the revenue, representing 38 per cent year-on-year growth. Licensing revenue grew 30 per cent.

The company also included data detailing QCT revenue sources. Handset components other than radios dominated, with the Internet of Things in second place.

Qualcomm QCT revenue breakdown

Qualcomm QCT revenue breakdown (click to enlarge)

On the licensing side of the business, the company said it has "all major handset OEMs" under licence and 110 agreements for its 5G technology.

Looking ahead, Mollenkopf saw only blue skies. Demand for 5G kit – in handsets and networks – is an enormous opportunity, as is Wi-Fi 6. The company thinks it can overcome both the US/China trade war and COVID-related supply chain challenges, although it does predict some "tightness of supply".

Overall, execs seemed pretty chuffed that past R&D decisions were paying off so handsomely as reflected in full-year revenue of $21.7bn and net income of $4.8bn, improvements of $2.3bn and $500m respectively.

Guidance for Q1 2021 was between $7.8bn and $8.6bn of revenue, which would again represent strong growth. Investors liked what they heard, and Qualcomm shares have popped by around 7 per cent since its results announcement. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022