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Qualcomm imagines constellation of Snapdragons sharing AI workloads

PCs to chat with phones, watches, goggles – even the cloud when necessary

Computex Qualcomm has used its Computex keynote to pitch the ubiquity of its Snapdragon platform as its challenge to x86 CPUs as the engine of PCs – by enabling more efficient AI through offloading workloads to a constellation of devices.

Senior veep and general manager for mobile, compute, and XR Alex Katouzian opened with a humblebrag that people may have a Snapdragon CPU in a PC, smartphone, smartwatch and extended reality glasses. Katouzian then observed rising demand for AI workloads, and made the obvious point that such workloads are very demanding.

Speaking before a Computex crowd less than half the size of that which gathered to hear Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, Katouzian outlined a plan to have Qualcomm enable AI workloads to move around Snapdragon-powered devices – assuming a user possesses several of them.

Offloading AI in this way, he said, will mean XR glasses can become smaller because they can be simpler devices once they offload some AI workloads.

Kedar Kondap, Qualcomm's senior veep and GM for compute and gaming, pointed out that local devices offer superior performance per watt compared to cloudy datacenters. He therefore predicted that AI workloads will be shared between client devices and clouds – in real time, if doing so enables the best and most efficient experience.

Qualcomm has dabbled in datacenter processors, but the chip shop's reps made no mention of such devices in the keynote. So while Kondap and Katouzian suggested Snapdragon-powered PCs are redefining the category, at this stage Qualcomm appears not to be contemplating a full-stack attack.

There was also much talk of Microsoft and Qualcomm's mutual affection, and the chip design firm driving the PC to more closely resemble a mobile device by allowing always-on connectivity and longer battery life. That combo – and Redmond's effort to make Windows 11 sing on Arm-powered processors – was suggested as so potent that Qualcomm will become an even more serious challenger to what Katouzian referred to as "incumbent" PC players.

He means Intel and AMD.

A look at the scoreboard will tell you Qualcomm has made few inroads in the PC market. In February 2023 Analyst firm Counterpoint opined that Arm-powered laptops will enjoy 25 percent market share within five years. Qualcomm and MediaTek will grow at over 50 percent year on year between now and 2025. But Apple is already the Arm laptop leader – with 90 percent market share – and Counterpoint said Qualcomm and MediaTek will take market share from AMD and Intel.

Another scoreboard that wasn't mentioned was Qualcomm's financials, which recently took a hit as consumers put away their wallets. Just what that means for the prospects of linked Snapdragon machines was therefore not considered.

The keynote ended with a promise that Qualcomm's long-touted next-gen Oryon CPU architecture will ship in 2024. But, as with the talk of offloading workloads to multiple Snapdragon devices, no details were offered. ®

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