After Apple released the iPhone 5s with the A7, the world’s first 64-bit chip, ARM competitor Qualcomm made quite the fool of themselves about it. First, Qualcomm representative Anand Chandrasekher called a 64-bit ARM chip a “gimmick.” Then they ate their words, soft fired Chandrasekher, and announced their own 64-bit chip to ship in 2014.
If that seems like a disorganized, chaotic response, you’re right. But there’s a reason for that. According to a new report, Apple’s unveiling of the 64-bit A7 chip took the entire semiconductor industry with their pants down… and everyone’s now scrambling to catch up.
According to a new report from Dan Lyons (yes, of Fake Steve Jobs fame) over at HubSpot, a Qualcomm insider has told them that when the A7 chip first came out, it “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,” the employee said.
This is why guys like Chandrasekher immediately started mouthing off about 64-bit being a gimmick. From a certain perspective, he’s right: most apps can’t take advantage of 64-bit right now. But someday, most apps will benefit, which means that Chandrasekher’s thoughtless comments were selling out Qualcomm’s future products, which is why he ended up getting in so much trouble for the remark.
“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,” the insider continued.
So Qualcomm had to scrambled to catch up. But roadmaps aren’t easy things to alter: look at Intel, which plans its chip roadmaps years in advance. They are battleships, not speedboats. From that perspective, it’s a miracle that Qualcomm’s first 64-bit chip will “only” be a year late to market compared to the A7. Cold comfort for Qualcomm, that.