Qualcomm is pushing its Snapdragon chipset into a new device category: the SMARTBOOK category. Some qualifies this category as a new lucrative niche category, but this is more than that.
>> see telecoms.com article
>> see Qualcomm press release
Qualcomm is just trying to hunt on Intel’s land, to woo the NETBOOK manufacturers and to get smartphone manufacturers to enter the NETBOOK arena. Thanks to the 1Ghz application processor of Snapdragon, Qualcomm believes that it can compete with Intel Atom featuring a 1.3GHz processor.
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Qualcomm and Intel were competing already in the MID segment
Let’s have a look at Qualcomm vs. Intel position in the data terminal space.
As you can see Intel with its Atom platform is dominating the 7’’+ screen device segment whereas Qualcomm is dominating the below 5’’ segment. One sergment is still disputed it is the MID (device between 5’’ and 7’’ screen). The outcome of the competition in the MID space isn’t so clear yet. Even if one still can wonder if there is a viable MID segment. So before the release of Snapdragon, Qualcomm and Intel were competing eventually in just the MID segment.
Different value propositions, strong competition
Atom and Snapdragon are bringing different value proposition. Qualcomm core proposition is to power “always connected” device whereas Intel enables you to connect on demand on the network thanks to an additional 3G embedded module. But an Intel powered device will not be always on and show notifications of incoming messages or communications.
So if we split the previous figure into 2 lines with the value proposition we get the hereafter figure:
But now Qualcomm wants to enter the NETBOOKS or SMARTBOOKS arena and Intel to grab a strong market share of the nascent MID segment.
The rationale of the Qualcomm’s guys is that the NETBOOK segment is becoming an operator one with 3G embedded modules. So if the NETBOOK is to be connected with a 1GHz application processor they can do better than Intel.
At the same time Intel is trying to promote its Atom powered MID to grab a piece of the high end SMARTPHONE segment.
What about the user experience?
What will make the difference at the end of the day may be something else than the chipset: the Operating System which conditions the user experience. The OS today is segmenting what you can do or expect to do from a computing device.
For office tasks people tend to stick to Windows and MS Office, even if you can nearly do the same with a Linux powered laptop. The best asset of an Intel / Windows laptop is the driver compatibility. You don’t have to bother as every accessory does have a native driver for the platform which is not the case for Linux.
Today Windows XP is shipped on around 85% of the NETBOOKS. Will consumer change their habits for a Linux NETBOOK? Maybe if the accessory driver potential issue is solved properly and the whole user experience good.
Then the solution for Qualcomm to breach into this market is to be found either in Redmond or in Mountain View.
Gone with the ‘Cloud’?
The best would be for Qualcomm to have Microsoft porting XP or Windows 7 to Snapdragon. If Microsoft does so, Intel will suffer a lot in the NETBOOKS as Qualcomm can achieve a better power consumption and chipset integration. But if Microsoft still sticks to its long standing partnership with Intel, it would be a tremendous opportunity for Google and its Android platform. Android is based on a Linux kernel and would easily run the Open Office suite of applications or Google Docs.
After all Android is supporting the Google’s “cloud” approach and what could be a better platform than an always connected chipset? Will Android gain momentum in the NETBOOK segment? This is the real question for Qualcomm.