[UPDATED] Qualcomm CEO about Samsung’s ‘eight-core’ Exynos 5 Octa: “It’s just a misleading publicity stunt”
Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs thinks that Samsung’s touting of its ‘eight-core’ Exynos 5 Octa processor represents a misleading publicity stunt meant to hide a pretty glaring defect in the product.
Jacobs is in China, where he spoke to local media yesterday about many things related to his company. The bit about competitors, and especially Samsung, stood out to us.
Companies like Samsung use the high number of CPU cores in their chipsets to gather attention to their products, but there’s a big problem hiding behind all the PR, according to Jacobs. In the case of the Exynos 5 Octa, he claims that the power consumption of the four high-performance cores was just too high, which is why Samsung decided to slap on an additional four cores with low drain to balance things out. Thus since you probably won’t be using your Exynos 5-powered device to do just performance intensive tasks all day, the overall power consumption from the chipset should be more manageable.
That’s because ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture that Samsung is using in its Exynos 5 Octa CPU doesn’t allow all eight cores to be used at once. Either the four high-performing Cortex-A15 cores are in use, or the four Cortex-A7 cores which are low-power but deliver less performance.
So Samsung is apparently trying to turn a pretty big problem (the high power drain of the Cortex-A15 design) into an advantage, by screaming ‘eight-core’ at the world and hoping people will once again fall for the ‘more is always better’ fallacy. This makes it easy to get publicity, but is fundamentally misleading, the Qualcomm CEO thinks. So let’s hope he’s right and the ‘more cores’ trend will fade away soon and we’ll be able to focus on other things when comparing specs.
Jacobs would like those to be smoother graphics and low power consumption, among other things. The man naturally believes that his company’s products are going to be superior to the competition’s. The recently announced Snapdragon 800 and 600 series are ‘just’ four-core parts, but Jacobs says they can scale both their performance and their power consumption according to what’s needed at any given time. And each core can work independently from the others to complete different tasks in order to reduce power drain.
Asked how he felt about Intel’s continuous efforts to get into the mobile space, Jacobs said that the PC processor market is very different from the mobile one. And while Intel could become a strong competitor, Qualcomm’s ‘born mobile’ mantra has its advantages too. Furthermore, Jacobs doesn’t believe Intel has an advantage in production technology compared to Qualcomm. So it looks like the new competitor is being more or less welcomed into the mobile world, without fear that it could eat into the market leader’s share anytime soon.
Qualcomm won’t make its own mobile devices, because that would give the wrong signal to its chipset customers. Jacobs believes that they’ll always think that the company would keep its best chip designs to itself. So basically, he says that competing with your customers isn’t a particularly good idea.
In China, the world’s biggest smartphone market, Qualcomm is focused on having chipset designs that support all of the country’s carriers and their respective network technologies. The biggest challenge for the company in that market is keeping the price of its products at a low enough level (read: to compete with Mediatek) while constantly improving them.
All of the above has been widely reported by the Chinese media. Keep in mind that some nuances may have been lost in translation.
[UPDATE] Qualcomm contacted us to point out that Paul Jacobs’ comments were taken out of context (having something translated from English to Chinese and then back to English again can do that, no doubt). Per Qualcomm, Jacobs did not use the words “misleading” or “publicity stunt” with relation to Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa processor. Furthermore, the words “publicity stunt” were not used at all. Qualcomm’s CEO did refer to the whole general focus on the number of cores in the mobile CPU space as “misleading”, though.