Qualcomm: why mobile chip design is a triathlon

"With touch, we built the capabilities in," he said. "In that particular case, our customers are the ones who innovate those technologies. They are the ones that create the market, but we hopefully provide the fuel for them to be able to do that by planting the flag early so that they can take advantage of it and innovate as they see fit."

It's hard to find a mobile operating system that doesn't have at least one handset housing a Qualcomm-stamped product in one form or another, yet Chandrasekher was reticent to talk customers by name.

Although Qualcomm's silicon is used inside the iPhone, Chandrasekher declined to comment on the possibility of future Apple collaborations - "we typically don't mention specific customers by name" - and wouldn't play favorites when it came to the phone manufacturers its chips best mesh with.

But as the company looks to build loyalty among all smartphone buyers, he was more forthcoming.

"For the consumer that is looking for the best smartphone, they should make sure it's powered by a Snapdragon," he said, before adding with a laugh, "that would be the sound bite."

800 and triathlons

With months to go before the Snapdragon 800 is officially unleashed, Chandrasekher managed to impress the chipset's power on the conference crowd by playing a trailer for Star Trek: Into Darkness in crisp UltraHD and booming 7.1 surround sound, all from two 800 MDP tablets.

Though a lone Snapdragon 800 can run with both features, the Qualcomm PR team told us two were used for logistical reasons.

"The thing I like a lot [about the 800] is the feature I talked about and we demonstrated, which is UltraHD plus 7.1," Chandrasekher said. "I think that is earth-shatteringly beautiful.

"I like that a lot because to get that capability, you have to have a home theater experience. [The Snapdragon 800] allows you to get that on that kind of form factor [taps his tablet] or that kind of form factor [taps his smartphone] on the go. That's never been possible before. That's huge."

"Wait until you've heard it on your normal headsets," he added. "It's even more mind blowing."

Star Trek Into Darkness

Qualcomm wants to take you out of darkness and into UltraHD

As Qualcomm looks to innovate in - and redefine - the mobile space, Chandrasekher noted that while competitors abound, the company is positioned to excel in the mobile chipset design race.

"The mobile industry is obviously a very, very sought after market, so we have a lot of competitors," he said, declining to name any specifically. "What differentiates us? We are effectively born mobile.

"That has a number of implications to it. Part of that is we know where the land mines are, and knowing how every operator runs their network slightly differently. If you are building a chip that is designed to run on an operator's network, you've got to know how to do that. You can't keep learning it every time you do it."

He circled back to a metaphor used during his conference talk, one that likened SoC success to a triathlon. To excel, he explained, requires many parts - the CPU, GPU, multimedia, DSP - working as one while not burning a whole through consumers' pockets and performing with optimal power efficiency.

"Born mobile, it's a triathlon," he told us. "It's not a single sport event. Of the many companies that were born mobile, I think we're the only one left standing."

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.