BOSTON – Qualcomm, traditionally known for its direct relationships with mobile handset OEMs and ODMs, has jumped into the “embedded” fray, by launching the company’s newly designed “DragonBoard” here at the Embedded Systems Conference.
By decoupling the company’s Snapdragon apps processor from cellular modem connectivity, “we can now offer the DragonBoard to a much broader universe,” explained Tia Cassett, senior director of business development at Qualcomm. In other words, under the new product strategy, Qualcomm doesn't have to ask customers to sign an expensive CDMA license.
Qualcomm hopes to target the DragonBoard, priced at $300, to a wide range of customers, including applications developers, designers of personal health products, consumer devices and industrial equipment, and engineering students at universities. “We want them to develop unique apps that we haven’t even thought of before,” said Cassett.
The DragonBoard consists of a main board with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon APQ8060 processor; WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity daughter board; sensor daughter board; drivers and other components; and Android Operating System.
To use different types of sensor -- a chemical sensor, for example, a user can snap in a new sensor daughter board. “It’s very customizable,” said Cassett.
Of course, there are a number of applications processors – sans cellular modem – already available on the market, many gunning for consumer devices like tablets and smart TVs. Asked about how APQ8060 differs, Cassett noted that its very high processing power is the key.
The board features the high performing APQ8060, based on new dual-core Scorpion CPU architecture, offering speeds up to 1.5GHz per core. The processor incorporates an asynchronous dual-core SMP micro-architecture, allowing each core to work independently. The apps processor offers full multimedia experience with 1080p HD video and Dolby 5.1 audio and Qualcomm’s home-grown Adreno 220 GPU.
Cassett noted that Texas Instruments’ BeagleBoard was an inspiration for Qualcomm. The BeagleBoard is a low-power, low-cost single board featuring TI’s OMAP3530 system-on-a-chip. She stressed, “But we went a step further. We are offering much more with our DragonBoard.”
Beyond a good development toolset they also need to decide what level of application support they will provide. The Arduino mentioned by @erebus is an excellent example. This open-source project has a very active user support infrastructure, better than is provided by many commercial companies. At a minimum hopefully Qualcomm is providing a user support forum. Does anyone know if they are?
I agree with Larry. While they are offering a very capable development kit, there was no mention about software tools to design, build and debug applications. There was also no set area defined where Qualcomm would target their board for. If they are just fishing for customers, they need to start with an Arduino level product and provide a large array of code libraries with a good IDE. They are moving into a very tough market and you need more than just a neat processor, you need to have a full support environment that is very easy to learn and use.
Doing the development board is the easy part. The hard part is supporting developers that will be using it. Has Qualcomm set up the resources to support small (i.e. non-strategic to Qualcomm) development efforts?
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