From my perspective, attending this yr’s Snapdragon Tech Summit was all however obligatory for a journalist protecting 5G: It supplied the very first alternative to go hands-on with low-band (600MHz) 5G, and the first appears to be like at the chips that can energy many of 2020’s strongest 5G units. Qualcomm revealed the Snapdragon XR2 5G, a chipset that can energy standalone 5G VR and AR units, in addition to new Snapdragon chips for ultra-premium and midrange smartphones, plus entry-level and midrange Windows PCs.
I used to be genuinely impressed by all of the new choices, in addition to Qualcomm’s aggressive undertone throughout the keynotes. By the finish of the third day’s keynote, it was concentrating on laptop computer OEMs with extra power-efficient, AI-capable chips than Intel, and keen to call its rival out on its nonetheless gorgeous inabilities to make 7-nanometer CPUs or persistently provide older-process components to clients.
But as its processors try and supplant Intel’s throughout a number of product classes, Qualcomm faces a singular problem: The success of its formidable and typically visionary chips in the end relies upon considerably on the execution of partners — OEMs and mobile carriers. Put one other manner, it might probably exhibit a half-dozen new CPUs and two dozen superior options at the Snapdragon Tech Summit, however who is aware of whether or not and when customers will really have the ability to purchase merchandise with these options?
This is the inverse of Apple’s state of affairs. Apple doesn’t say a phrase about its personal (or partner-provided) new chips till they’re really inside transport merchandise. When it says it developed the first 64-bit cell processor, bam, you should buy it 10 days later. If it creates a brand new wi-fi audio chip for tiny earphones, or a brand new system-on-chip for watches, you study them when hero merchandise are actually en path to shops. Unsurprisingly, folks reply enthusiastically to this method, and reward Apple by quickly adopting its new applied sciences.
Over the course of three days of keynotes and extra demos than I can depend, I realized about what we’ll be seeing in all kinds of thrilling Snapdragon-powered merchandise slated for 2020 and past. Some examples:
Smartphones with tremendous cameras, backed by unimaginable 1-2-Gigapixel bandwidth and tremendous quick picture processors. New Snapdragon chips will help as much as 200-Megapixel nonetheless pictures, 8K video recording, and Dolby Vision 4K HDR video. But past utilizing the new Snapdragon chips, Qualcomm’s OEM partners might want to supply the proper picture sensors… and ensure that their Camera apps deal with all that information shortly… and so on. There are rather a lot of shifting items that must work collectively correctly, but when they do, subsequent yr’s telephones will ship gorgeous images and videography.
Next up: 5G units for AR/XR, enterprise conferencing, industrial functions, desktop-quality gaming, and past. Lots of firms are working on Snapdragon-powered 5G units — Qualcomm says over 230 are both out or in the works. But they’ll rely on carriers and/or firms’ personal 5G networks for the obligatory 5G infrastructure.
Also intriguing: Budget-priced (sub-$500) PC laptops with Gigabit LTE connectivity and midrange laptops with 5G, delivering sleeker type elements and AI processing capabilities to customers throughout notably price-conscious markets, together with training. It’s unclear at this level which PC OEMs will really be making these machines, however Microsoft’s backing the program with Windows 10, which counts for lots.
Then there have been demos of next-gen applied sciences that really feel like they’re on the cusp of being launched (and viable) however nonetheless wanted bug testing and extra polish. Nreal’s Light AR glasses, which the firm will promote itself for $500 subsequent yr, are in the course of of being adopted by service partners together with Japan’s KDDI/Au and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom for shopper and enterprise makes use of. They rely upon Snapdragon 855 or later smartphones.
The excellent news with Nreal Light is that when the glasses work, they’re delivering surprisingly compelling 3D visuals that seem like brilliant holograms you’ll be able to stroll round in the actual world. I used to be capable of view advanced 3D architectural fashions, a dinosaur skeleton, advanced equipment, and different objects that seemed higher than I’d anticipated from a cell machine rendering engine. But a mix of connectivity and different demo glitches marred the experiences for me. Most probably as a consequence of the software program, the glasses don’t but appear able to ship.
And that’s the rub. I’m 100% satisfied that attending Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Tech Summit this yr let me see and expertise the future of cell expertise. But whether or not the execution of Qualcomm’s partners in the end lives as much as the spectacular capabilities of its new chips stays to be seen.