Cristiano Amon Takes over as Qualcomm CEO: Reiterates Focus on Custom CPUs

As of June 30th, Qualcomm’s Cristiano Amon has taken over as the company’s CEO, replacing his predecessor Steve Mollenkopf, who has now retired. Prior to the appointment, Amon had a long history and tenure at Qualcomm filling engineering roles, and previously filling the role of president of QCT (The company’s semiconductor business).

In statements to Reuters, Amon had made comments regarding the company’s future CPU roadmap, which come to further contextualise the company’s completed acquisition of NUVIA last March.

 “We needed to have the leading performance for a battery-powered device,” Amon said. “If Arm, which we’ve had a relationship with for years, eventually develops a CPU that’s better than what we can build ourselves, then we always have the option to license from Arm.”

The wording here is again very bullish on Qualcomm’s part, reinforcing the idea that the company is extremely confident in NUVIA’s CPU microarchitecture and that it will have no issue in differentiating itself in terms of performance compared to what Arm has available in terms of CPU IP. Last March, the company had noted that work on integrating NUVIA’s custom CPU core into a laptop-oriented Snapdragon SoC would be an immediate focus, with Amon now stating that they are planning on bringing such a design to market in 2022.

In terms of timeline and against which Arm core the NUVIA design might compete against depends on when exactly in 2022 the new chip might make it to market – if it’s in the first half, then we’ll see it compete against the already announced Cortex-X2 cores from Arm. If it’s in the latter half, it’s possible it will be positioned against Arm’s next-gen Sophia cores. In either case, Qualcomm seems confident in terms of beating the Arm Cortex designs, which bodes well for next-gen Snapdragons.

Amon’s comment that if Arm is able to build a better CPU than Qualcomm’s own designs is also reminiscent of the company’s previous generation custom CPU endeavours: the last time the company had employed a custom microarchitecture was in the 2016 Snapdragon 820 with its Kryo cores. Competing Cortex cores had been faster and more power efficient in a smaller area footprint, which lead the company to use those designs instead, and eventually leading to Qualcomm dissolving its CPU design teams – a decision which later ended up with no in-house design capabilities up until the recent NUVIA purchase.

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