While Qualcomm and other SOC (system-on-a-chip) manufacturers have put on brave faces, it seems that Apple's announcement of a 64-bit A7 processor for its iDevices was as big a surprise to them as the iPhone was to BlackBerry. Speaking to Hubspot on Monday, a Qualcomm insider likened the announcement to a punch in the gut.
The unnamed source said:
The 64-bit Apple chip hit us in the gut. Not just us, but everyone, really. We were slack-jawed, and stunned, and unprepared. It’s not that big a performance difference right now, since most current software won’t benefit. But in Spinal Tap terms it’s like, 32 more, and now everyone wants it.
Aside from Apple, Qualcomm provides processor chips for just about every OEMs. Unlike Apple though, Qualcomm has to provide chips that are updated more than once a year, and for multiple manufacturers demanding multiple tweaks.
When Apple announced the A7, Qualcomm CMO Anand Chandrasekher called the chip “a marketing gimmick," claiming that it offered "zero benefit" to a consumer. However, Qualcomm quickly put out a statement calling the comment “inaccurate.” Furthermore, soon thereafter, Chandrasekher was removed from his CMO position.
Admittedly, iDevices really don't need a 64-bit processor yet. Certainly, they don't need it to address more RAM, as the iPhone has only 1GB of RAM, and it could go to above 3GB of RAM without a 64-bit processor. Still, the existence of a 64-bit A7 means that Apple has a checkbox that none other currently has.
The Qualcomm insider noted the lack of "current essentialness" for a 64-bit mobile processor:
The roadmap for 64-bit was nowhere close to Apple’s, since no one thought it was that essential. The evolution was going to be steady. Sure, it’s neat, it’s the future, but it’s not really essential for conditions now.
There have been rumors that Samsung will introduce a mobile device with a 64-bit chip early in 2014.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 410 64-bit processor, which will also feature an integrated 4G LTE chipset. While that sounds high-end, it will reportedly target the burgeoning Chinese market, with low-cost smartphones sporting the SOC appearing in the second half of 2014.