Last fall, wireless chip company Qualcomm quietly passed Intel in market capitalization. Today, the two companies are neck and neck--Intel’s market cap of $112 billion was slightly ahead of Qualcomm’s $110 billion as of mid-April. But the fact that Qualcomm is even close is astounding. Its annual revenue is only 40 percent of Intel’s.
Its soaring value is just one more sign of how mobile communications is overtaking the traditional computing market. According to IHS, semiconductor revenues from data processing are falling at about the same rate that wireless communications chip revenues are rising (7.8 percent). At that rate, it won’t be long before wireless communications revenue--which now makes up 23 percent of all semiconductor revenue--surpasses data processing’s 34-percent share.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.