Qualcomm: Windows 8 will take us beyond smartphones

Microsoft's next-gen operating system won't yield big returns for Qualcomm in the near future, but ultimately will carry the chipmaker into a wider range of computing devices.

Qualcomm's stellar fiscal fourth quarter yielded a bevy of goodies beyond the core financials: Executives said there are 350 devices in development based on the company's Snapdragon chip and Windows 8 means a business model beyond smartphones.

The company's quarter and outlook for fiscal 2012 was strong. Qualcomm is riding a 3G wave in emerging markets and prepping a dual-mode Long Term Evolution chipset that will fuel sales in developing markets. Add it up and momentum abounds for Qualcomm.

But the more interesting comments from Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs and Steve Mollenkopf, executive vice president, revolved around Windows 8. Microsoft's next-gen operating system won't yield big returns for Qualcomm in the near future, but ultimately will carry the chipmaker into a wider range of computing devices.

Mollenkopf said on Qualcomm's earnings conference call:

We continue to invest in the Windows computing platform and associated ecosystem to address new device categories beyond traditional cellular. Microsoft recently demonstrated Windows 8 running on Snapdragon at their Build conference and highlighted how our mobile architecture enables a feature called connected standby.

This feature enables a Windows 8 PC to run on low power mode and remain connected to the network in an always up-to-the-date much like smartphones do today. This underscores the advantages of our mobile architecture. We expect Windows 8 to be a significant opportunity for us beyond this fiscal year.

Steve Altman, president of Qualcomm, elaborated a bit more on Windows 8 before he realized he was probably saying too much. Altman said:

On Windows 8, we don't think that will be a big revenue event here in this fiscal year, but we continue to invest, I think, upstream of what we think will be a very interesting opportunity. So there are multiple chipsets actually right now in development in support of what we think will be a pretty interesting market here in the next several years.

I don't want to talk in any great detail about the timing. I think Microsoft alluded to that or at least provided some indication at their recent Build conference. But I will say that the initial products that we will use are already in the lab and already are in customer hands. So it is really an active development project now for us.

The big takeaway is that Qualcomm's plan is to ride ARM and Windows 8 into PCs and beyond. In other words, Qualcomm's addressable market could balloon in the years ahead.

A larger market could be a scary thought given Qualcomm's most recent results. The company is firing on all cylinders. There have been 300 Snapdragon devices announced and 350 more in development.

Qualcomm reported earnings of $1.06 billion, or 62 cents a share, on revenue of $4.12 billion, up 39 percent from a year ago. Non-GAAP earnings were 80 cents a share, two pennies better than Wall Street estimates. Qualcomm reported fiscal 2011 earnings of $4.26 billion, or $2.52 a share, on revenue of $14.96 billion, up 36 percent from a year ago. Non-GAAP earnings were $3.20 a share.

For 2011, Qualcomm shipped 483 million CDMA handsets. As for the outlook, Qualcomm is projecting fiscal first quarter revenue between $4.35 billion to $4.75 billion with non-GAAP earnings of 86 cents a share to 92 cents a share. That outlook was better than expected. For fiscal 2012, Qualcomm sees revenue of $18 billion to $19 billion with non-GAAP earnings of $3.42 a share to $3.62 a share.

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