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Qualcomm builds first eight-core processor to appease spec-crazed Chinese customers

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Qualcomm Snapdragon (STOCK)
Qualcomm Snapdragon (STOCK)

Qualcomm chief marketing officer Anand Chandrasekher thought eight-core chips were dumb, and called 64-bit processing a "marketing gimmick" last fall. How time flies. After demoting Chandresekher for those comments last year, Qualcomm is now building the Snapdragon 615, an eight-core, 64-bit chip for mobile devices. Along with the Snapdragon 610, its quad-core sibling, the new SOCs represent a new upper-middle class tier in the company's processor lineup. They feature up to eight 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 cores, integrated LTE, and an Adreno 405 GPU hat Qualcomm compares to those more expensive Snapdragon 800 devices. However, the company is quick to qualify that the new eight-core chip won't undercut its flagship chips. "It's definitely a 600, not an 800," says marketing VP Tim McDonough.

All hail the spec sheet

McDonough says that the decision to go with eight cores was a direct reaction to Chinese market research, where the company discovered that Chinese customers prefer more cores "whether or not they make a big difference." It sounds like eight-core is still a marketing gimmick as far as Qualcomm is concerned.

"They say the number of CPUs is important to them, which means it's important to our OEMs, which means it's important to us," says McDonough.

Certainly, Chinese customers aren't the only ones whose wallets can be steered by relatively unimportant specifications. But between this revelation and another from an employee who admitted that 64-bit doesn't yet make much of a difference, it sounds like Chandasekher was punished for simply telling the truth at a time that was inconvenient.

Qualcomm says the new Snapdragon chips should appear in devices in the fourth quarter of the year.