CES 2010 has turned out to be something of a transitional year heavily focused on even thinner HDTVs and 3D viewing, neither of which I'm overly convinced add much to our home cinema experience. Far more interesting, however, has been the undercurrent focused on mobility with the launch of the first smartbooks and ever more powerful smartphones. Key to this has been show dark horse Qualcomm and its 1GHz Snapdragon chipset and if we're impressed by what we've so far seen from its use in the Lenovo Skylight, Google Nexus One and LePhone (pictured) then it seems we ain't seen nothin' yet...
Late last week I attended a small roundtable with Qualcomm senior VP Luis Pineda who sketched out Snapdragon's roadmap. First on the horizon is breaking through the 1GHz barrier with Pineda revealing a 1.3GHz Snapdragon chipset fabricated at 45nm is shipping to manufacturers as of this month. This will deliver both a significant performance boost compared to the already zippy platform and also bring power savings. Smartphones based on it should start appearing from mid 2010.
Appealing as this is, real benefits start to appear at Snapdragon's next stage of development with Pineda confirming previous plans to have a 1.5GHz dual core chip are bang on schedule. Dubbed the '8X72', it will bring true multitasking benefits without performance compromises to smartphones for the first time and also have the grunt to decode 1080p Full HD video.
The 8X72 should start shipping to handset and smartbook makers by Q3 with the first products hitting the market in early 2011 (Nexus Two, perhaps?).
Of course Qualcomm isn't alone in this sector by any means. Freescale, Intel and Nvidia are all pushing hard and even Apple is rumoured to be readying its own chips for use in its phantom tablet. That said, Qualcomm does seem to have the edge at present - most notably in design wins with the likes of Lenovo, HTC, Google, Acer, Dell, Toshiba, LG and Amazon (with the Kindle) all choosing its platforms - and it is looking an increasingly daunting task for its rivals to catch up.