Qualcomm: Eight-core processors are 'dumb'

Qualcomm: Eight-core processors are 'dumb'

Summary: Qualcomm accuses chip rivals of not knowing what consumers want and accuses them of "throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks."

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TOPICS: Hardware, Mobility
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(Source: Qualcomm)

Eager not to enter into a 'core war' that dominated the PC CPU industry, a Qualcomm executive branded eight-core processors manufactured by rivals as "dumb."

Speaking during a Taiwanese media roundtable, Qualcomm senior vice president Anand Chandrasekher said that thinking only in terms of cores was "silly" and that it doesn't deliver what consumers need, and as result these octa-core monster processors are not going to be successful in the long run.

"You can't take eight lawnmower engines, put them together and now claim you have an eight-cylinder Ferrari," said Chandrasekher.

"It just doesn’t make sense."

Qualcomm, he said, would instead focus on delivering the best experience for users. This, he went on to say, starts by knowing what customer actually want.

"So, clearly, great modem experience, great battery life, fantastic multimedia experience – all of that put together in a beautiful package that they can go buy, because these are all fashion statements in addition to being utilitarian devices."

He went on to accuse rival – such as MediaTek, a company that has just come out with a new octa-core processor – of not being able to engineer a product that consumers wanted, and instead had resorted to "throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks."

"That’s a dumb way to do it, and I think our engineers aren’t dumb."

When asked directly if Qualcomm was planning on launching an octa-core part, Chandrasekher said that "we don’t do dumb things."

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 600 and Snapdragon 800 parts are all quad-cored.

While Qualcomm quite clearly doesn't think much of the current lineup of octa-core processors, they are clearly gaining traction within the market. OEMs Acer and Lenovo are both using MediaTek silicon, as is Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi.

Putting further pressure on Qualcomm, Samsung has also developed an octa-core processor for use in selected versions of the Samsung Galaxy S4, and last month the company unveiled an updated Exynos 5 Octa part.

It's inevitable that some players will get caught up in a mobile parts "core war." Years of PC marketing literature has conditioned consumers to believe that more cores equals more power. Not only is this inaccurate, but as we shift from the era of the PC to post-PC devices, more cores means more pressure on battery life, so there's certainly a balance that needs to be struck.

However, given the inevitable forward march of progress, I believe that Chandrasekher's comments should be taken as meaning that Qualcomm doesn't have any immediate plans to release octa-core parts, not that the company plans to shun them forever.

It's not a matter of if, but when.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility

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10 comments
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  • unless it is US who speaks that marketing

    qualcomm has been driving the 'upgrade' mania in mobile using exactly this marketing mayhem and FUD. Suddenly they found religion ?

    Intel did the same, persuading people to upgrade PCs every few months using marketing FUD, benchmarks and lies.
    GrabBoyd
  • Not just the number of cores...

    The performance of each core also matters for single-threaded programs. Also, even if a program is not single-threaded, it can only be made parallel to a certain extent; many mobile programs probably can barely take advantage of two cores, let alone eight.
    Third of Five
    • Thats correct

      And as phones can only do 1 or 2 things at a time and most applications are only single or dual threaded there is no point in having 8 cores to eat battery life...
      Jimster480
  • Who said Ferrari

    Your 8-engine lawn mower is twice as bad-ass as your neighbor with the lame 4-engine mower. No wonder the Qualcomm guy doesn't get it...he probably doesn't even cut his own grass.
    jvitous
    • The question is...

      Does the 8 engine mower cut your grass any better than the 4 engine mower? For that matter, does the 4 engine cut it better than the 2 engine?
      LiquidLearner
      • It wouldnt

        It would just use twice to 4 times the amount of gas to do the same job.
        Jimster480
  • quad cores were just as dumb if not used properly

    Look how WP on a single core ran circles around android on a quad core. And no more cores doesn't mean less battery life if you don't have a stupid processor that can't instantly power them up and down.
    and to 3rd/5 yeah single threaded programs depend on single core speed but even smartphones have several dozen things going on at once even when the user is only interacting with one of them. So just being able to do that stuff on other cores the foreground app isn't running on instead of time slicing up yours is a big win. Also smart smartphone programing platforms force apps to do work asynchronously (and off the UX thread) so more of the apps you use are probably more parallel than you think. Unless of course their html/css/js based in which case go ahead and uninstall them. :)
    Johnny Vegas
  • ignores big.LITTLE

    where an octa core is 4 big cores and 4 little cores - with the workload farmed out according to what is needed. It can be a more power efficient solution than just slow clocking of 4 big cores.

    The debate of general purpose computing v specialised computing has been going on for a very long time - at least since my supercomputing days in the 1980s. Today's mobile phone or tablet outperforms what we considered a very good supercomputer a long time ago. But software parallelism still has not caught up, so the gap between capability and our ability to use it is getting wider.
    tony@...
    • Mixing core types

      A 2-core Intel Atom, with 2 ARM Cortex M4 cores, is technically 4-core. I'm sure ARM would be happy to sell Intel a license to create such a beastie.
      Throw in some M0 cores and 8-core is easy to reach.

      Creating code for such a hybrid would be... interesting
      alan_r_cam
  • 8 Cores in a Phone ? Maybe Not...

    I was just thinking how my dinky little $80 LG Optimus blows the doors off my 1st computer, an $800+ Radio Shack Mod I ! The LG only lacks the screen and full-travel keyboard, which I could add if desired.

    Back to the subj of the article, maybe 8 cores wouldn't be a good fit for most smartphone users, at least not now. But how about a micro server ? Add 1-4GB of RAM, two to four 2.5" drives in various RAID levels, and an optimized Linux as a user-customizable NAS+virtual server box /w under 50W power consumption, in a box the size of a 400-page hardback, for pos < $ 500. Maybe ???
    The-Jetman