Qualcomm predicts 2024 is the year Windows on Arm goes large

For now, have a hiring freeze to preserve fat profits

Qualcomm CEO and president Cristiano Amon has tipped 2024 as the year in which PCs using his company’s Snapdragon silicon make a mark.

"We expect to see an inflection point in Windows on Snapdragon PCs in 2024 based on a significant number of design wins to date," he said on the company's Q4 2022 earnings call.

Amon made that prediction on the back of enhanced AI features that Microsoft admires, more PC-makers signing up for the silicon, and further design work to make Snapdragon suitable to run Windows.

Amon didn't elaborate on which vendors will offer Snapdragon-powered PCs, because much of the earnings call focused on how Qualcomm will get through the remainder of 2022 and what is expected to be a difficult 2023.

A hiring freeze is one tactic already deployed. CFO Akash Palkhiwala said "reductions" have been made "in handsets, other mature product areas, and selling, general, and administrative expenses." He did not explain if "reductions" refers to costs, headcount, or both.

Whatever the reductions comprise, Palkhiwala and Amon both explained that Qualcomm sees 2023 as challenging thanks to macroeconomic conditions and COVID lockdowns in China – phenomena that have seen customers left with more silicon inventory than expected. While device-makers are turning backlogs of unused supplies into finished products, Qualcomm's sales to them slow down.

Apple has helped by using more of its 5G modems than previously – Amon said the "majority" of 2023 iPhones will use Qualcomm silicon, up from 20 percent in past years – while Samsung is also buying more than in past years.

Other product lines such as automotive and the Internet of Things also have huge upside, and Amon said revenue is already promising.

Q4 results saw revenue of $11.4 billion, representing 22 percent year on year growth. Net income of $2.9 billion was up three percent.

For the full year, revenue rose 32 percent to $44.2 billion. Net income jumped 43 percent to $12.9 billion.

"We remain confident in our ability to navigate the current economic downturn given our strong balance sheet and consistent history of strong free cash flow generation," Amon told investors. He added that he feels Qualcomm's diversification strategy is on track and that, as the global economic cycle turns positive, outlooks will improve.

But the CEO is prepared if things don't turn around quickly.

"We will be decisive in managing operating expenses, especially if the downturn gets steeper or more prolonged than we expect," he said, before offering a little optimism.

"I would like to remind everyone that the current inventory is a cyclical adjustment that has no impact on the underlying long-term earnings power of the company. And we're well on our way executing our growth strategy, and all the fundamentals remain in place."

Just don't mention the controversial lawsuit with Arm. Amon and Palkhiwala didn't on the earnings call, nor in any of the accompanying material for investors – other than in passing references to all legal matters as an ambient risk and a live case that Qualcomm thinks will fall its way. ®

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