LAS VEGAS — Qualcomm announced its latest processor at 2014 International CES -- the Snapdragon 802, a fully integrated SoC designed for next-generation smart TVs, set-top boxes, and digital media adapters. Qualcomm claims Snapdragon will provide for ultra HD content, rich user interfaces, seamless decoding, and console-quality gaming as well as concurrent use cases.
The Snapdragon 802 processor will begin sampling early this year and is expected to be in commercial devices by late 2014. Theoretically, users will be able to watch a movie while browsing the web at the same time, and Qualcomm hopes that those streams can be shared with mobile devices.
"Combining the efficient integration of our Snapdragon processing and connectivity components with Qualcomm Technologies' demonstrated expertise in Android will enable the ultimate home entertainment experience with compelling new ways to watch, play, and interact," said Murthy Renduchintala, executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and co-president of QCT, in a release.
Snapdragon runs on a quad-core 1.8GHz Krait CPU and an Adreno 330 GPU. The SoC also has a dedicated low-power core for digital signal processing, dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz) support for HD video transmissions, and support for dual-band 802.11ac WiFi networks, "so those 4K streams will have the bandwidth they need," the release continues.
While Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said home-based products such as Snapdragon for smart TV allow the vendor to gain traction in Internet of Things development, one analyst wasn't sure what was unique about the new processor.
"I think Qualcomm is going to be facing a lot of competition in this market. There are a number of Chinese companies making SoCs in the market where many TVs are made," Peter Glaskowsky, contributing analyst with The Envisioneering Group, told EE Times.
Glaskowsky added that Qualcomm doesn't necessarily need to move into the smart TV market, though the company's brand value may be helpful in non-Chinese markets.
"I don't think that, for a company like Qualcomm, smart TVs could be considered necessary -- they have so much business in so many other areas," he said. "There won't be much opportunity to make money because of low-cost competition in the domestic Chinese market. Qualcomm's cost will be higher than various Chinese SoC companies."
Still, Glaskowsky said most of the customer-visible value in a smart TV comes from the panel, not the SoC.
“The SoC just can't be a source of dramatic competitive advantage. There are some opportunities for differentiation in panel technology that would have to be supported by new features in the SoC -- higher resolution, higher frame rates, wider color gamut, etc. -- but still, the tail does not wag the dog.”
— Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times