Can Qualcomm Become the ‘Nvidia of AI’ Beyond the Data Center?

When you think of the companies leading the artificial intelligence revolution, Nvidia is the first name that comes to mind. The chipmaker’s specialized GPUs and accelerators have become the de facto standard for powering AI workloads in data centers around the world. But as AI moves beyond the cloud and into consumer devices, a battle is heating up over who will become the “Nvidia of AI” on smartphones, PCs and other client hardware.

Qualcomm is making a very credible case that it could be the company to bring AI’s transformative capabilities to the mobile masses. With a singleminded focus on power-efficient system-on-chip designs, the San Diego firm has long dominated the smartphone processor space. And it intends to leverage that formidable footprint to stake its claim as the kingpin of on-device AI compute.

A Snapdragon AI Strategy

Qualcomm’s AI ambitions start with its latest Snapdragon mobile processors, which pack dedicated tensor accelerators to efficiently crunch machine learning models. The company has also rolled out AI software tools and frameworks like AI Hub to give mobile developers a helping hand in infusing their apps with intelligent features. From AI-powered cameras and voice assistants to smart gesture controls, Qualcomm wants the Snapdragon to be the brains driving immersive, responsive AI experiences on handsets.

But phones are just the beginning. With its ultra-high performance AI capabilities, the recently announced Snapdragon X Series chip is clearly targeted at turning Windows PCs and Arm-based laptops into AI powerhouses as well. Could Qualcomm’s vertically integrated, hardware-software approach be the secret sauce needed to make AI ubiquitous across client devices? It might have the inside track, but competition is fierce.

Snapdragon X Elite get Geekbench numbers that would make even Apple’s M-series chips break a sweat, a staggering 2,574 in single-core and a mind-boggling 12,562 in multi-core tests.

Qualcomm will have to fend off challenges from usual suspects like Intel, AMD and Nvidia itself in the fight to be crowned AI client king. Those semiconductor giants are all investing heavily to get a piece of the immense AI silicon opportunity beyond the data center too. Upstart AI chip startups like Graphcore, Cerebras and SambaNova are potential wild cards as well.

Still, with its laser focus on optimized AI performance per watt and the backing of mobile giants like Samsung, it’s easy to see why many view Qualcomm as the frontrunner to become the “Nvidia of AI” for smartphones, laptops and other intelligent client devices. While Nvidia remains safely entrenched in the data center for now, the quest to dominate AI silicon across every computing domain is only just beginning.

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ScottCharles
ScottCharles
Scott Charles is a professional writer and contributor for Gizmoweek. An avid collector of all things Apple watch, cool gadgets, phones.

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