Some may argue that it is inelegant for a company of Qualcomm’s level to go after smaller competitors, but that won’t stop the San Diego-based chip designer from doing just that. Repeatedly.
Back in early August, a Qualcomm top executive called current octo-core systems-on-a-chip “dumb” and brashly compared the competitors’ designs with “lawn motor engines” sold as an “eight-cylinder Ferrari”.
Who was the target of Qualcomm’s derision? MediaTek, the Taiwan-based chipmaker that has been killing it with its low-cost smartphone and tablet SoCs, which power most of the mobile devices made in China.
Now Qualcomm tries to hammer the point home with a video advertisement that compares its own quad-core designs with the designs of an unnamed competitor. However, eagle-eyed readers will notice that the color and font of the “Our Competitor” title matches precisely the styling of MediaTek.
Essentially, Qualcomm argues that having four great cores is much better than having eight older cores that deliver less performance. According to the chipmaker, 17 out of the 20 top apps in China only make use of two cores, which is a bottleneck that cancels the benefit of having more than four cores.
The video is a thinly veiled jab at the “true octo-core” processor that MediaTek recently announced with great fanfare. The problem is MediaTek’s chip features older, slower ARM Cortex A7 CPU cores, which puts it at disadvantage compared to the custom Krait 400 designs that Qualcomm uses.
Truth is Qualcomm has a point here and the video illustrates it quite well: with the way apps use the processor at present, it makes more sense to have a few fast cores than a bunch of older ones. This is reflected in benchmark scores as well.
But Qualcomm’s efforts to discredit MediaTek’s products are telling for the success that the scrappy Taiwanese chipmaker has been enjoying as of late. MediaTek is very strong in China, a market that is sensible to cost, which prevents Qualcomm from competing as effectively as it does internationally.
And, with the octa-core chip, MediaTek is showing that it’s not satisfied with catering for the entry-level to mid-range market. From this perspective, Qualcomm’s jabs could be viewed as a sign of insecurity.
When asked for comment on Qualcomm’s attack, MediaTek said it has no interest in the activities of competitors.