Qualcomm it is for Windows Phone as ST-Ericsson fizzles away

Turning to other matters today, it looks like the silicon maker ST-Ericsson will soon be a thing of the past, or at least significantly de-fanged.  The company is now set to be broken up with employee layoffs and the remaining legacy continuing as STMicro.

This is relevant only because back in 2011, ST-Ericsson publicly claimed a deal with Nokia to help supply their chipsets on their emerging line of low-cost Windows Phones. Indeed, their NovaThor chipset was supposed to rival that of Qualcomm, who has had a dominant role with Windows Phones from its inception.

The idea that ST-Ericsson would compete with Qualcomm (and eventually NVIDIA) is enticing only because competition is good for the platform. But evidently that deal between Nokia and ST-Ericsson was either over-hyped or never materialized, because the company is now no more.

NVIDIA roadmap
Where art thou, Windows Phone? (NVIDIA)

Speaking of NVIDIA, the last we heard from them on Windows Phone was a leaked roadmap (that eventually went public) noting that they were on board for 2013 with their Tegra/Icera combo "Grey" chipset. But that was two years ago and we have heard not a single bit of information regarding that chipset nor NVIDIA making any SoC for Windows Phone OEMs. Indeed, at this point, we’d be very doubtful of that coming to fruition.

With ST-Ericsson out and NVIDIA still MIA that only leaves Qualcomm to continue to dominate the SoC that powers Windows Phones.

Source: Reuters


Reader comments

Qualcomm it is for Windows Phone as ST-Ericsson fizzles away


I used to dig on Qualcomm back in the day (especially with the aGPS/GPS thing) but for the last 2 years, they have been dominating the mobile industry and in a good way. I'm constantly impressed with what they're working on and where they are going.

Still, competition would be nice.

I completely agree. While it's good to have the best game in town, they're not exactly being challenged to deliver features which may be specific to WinRT/WP8.

I'm hoping that they do get voted onboard, as it seems that Microsoft are keeping the hardware specifications extremely tight so I assume MS are the impediment here as Intel seem to be keen to get any serious Phone business.
Qualcomm are definitely good, but with their profits going up by 30% I think the benefits of having a second chipset supported for WP9 would far outweigh any "fragmentation" issues.  Plus Intel would bring in some very good technology too.

I don't think so because Intel initially sold their mobile processor division to Qualcomm around 2006 I believe.

Yeah, but they're back.  Big time.  By the end of this year/beginning of next, Intel may have the MIPS/watt advantage over all ARM vendors.  None of them really have what it takes to compete with Intel's manufacturing, and their roadmaps simply don't stack up (but you never know).  And Intel will then start looking serioiusly for some partners.  One will be Tizen, which, with Samsung's support, will become "the third ecosystem" overnight.
And you can bet, given what a sales laggard WP is, MS is going to be pretty desperate to have someone to take to the dance.  Intel, not wanting to have all their eggs in the Tizen basket, may well be just that partner.

Not necessarily. If WP8 and WP9 both run on their own SoC families without exception and crossover, then the negative types of fragmentation most often referred to are completely avoided.

I think Android's fragmentation has less to do with chipsets and more to do with OEM engineering teams being directed to work on future devices first, updating current high-end devices second and updating "legacy" devices (read: 9 months or older) never.

Yes, ST-Ericsson will be discontinued. But No, the competition will not disappear since the business from ST-Ericsson will continue in the parent companies. For those who want to go for alternatives for Qualcomm can go and buy the platform from Ericsson. Ericsson will continue the development of LTE thin modems.

I think qualcomm is supplying their chips for windows phones for low prices.
That is one of the reasons for Nokia being able to deliver Lumia 520 for such low prices.
The below details are from qualcomm executive Raj Talluri: Their product portfolio for 2nd half 2013. He expects snapdragon 600 to become mid range once 800 launced in the 2nd half.
Snapdragon 800: Phones that cost $500+
Snapdragon 600: In phones that cost $300 to $500
Snapdragon 400: Phones that cost $100 to $300
Snapdragon 200: Phones that cost sub $100.
I am sure Microsoft must have made some deal to get lower prices because of exlclusiveness.

No such special deal between Nokia and Qualcomm exists. Most of Nokia's engineering efforts for the x20 line were already recouped by the L920. Because the entire Lumia x20 line is essentially the same phone in different clothing, the L520's cost structure barely contains engineering expenses. In fact, the L520 need recoup only its own production and distribution costs to break even, which is less than $120 per device.

Not ARM, but is there a chance that Intel will jump into Windows Phone with one of their Atom designs?

Intel can't jump on anything! Microsoft evaluates which SoC they like best and then ensures WP is compatible with and optimized for that one SoC. The supplier of that SoC then gets WP's business for that particular hardware cycle. End of story.

However, I agree that a future Intel SoC is a very likely pick for a future version of WP.

Qualcomm is the best there is at the moment.
But something people seem to forget is that different SoCs are the root of hardware differentation. So in that i would more than welcome more options out there. 

Hardware differentiation at the SoC level achieves little for consumers and makes life for developers (particularly those making games) quite a bit more complicated. Anything that is more complicated for developers will at some point filter down and also make life more complicated for consumers. It's not going to happen, because Microsoft doesn't want it to happen. For good reason.

That's te purpose of an OS to make those changes transparent to the app developers so they don't have to care about hardware

I am a developer. What you say is true for things like cameras and microphones, but not at all true for things like CPUs, GPUs or any of the other coprocessors that are part of the SoC. For sich core components, the OS can't hide differences in performance or features. That is why it is precisely those smartphone components which MS has rigorously standardized... MS doesn't do that just for fun.

I'm a dev too. And the os can mitigate the differences. And that is what it does. You don't write in assemmbly anymore. And no one ever has writen code for gpu except from os provided apis and libs(OpenGl, DirectX, DirectCompute, AMP, OpenCL, etc). You don't write assembly code for cpu either so it's the os job to take care of those differences. Does it result in performance differences sure. Any different CPUs desktop or mobile have different performance envelope and prices