VR-Zone caught up with executives from Taiwan’s fast-growing chip designer at CES to talk about how it plans to beat Qualcomm and Intel in the SoC game.
One of the more interesting stories of last year’s Computex trade show in Taipei was the sheer popularity of mobile devices sporting SoCs from MediaTek.
While the usual players in the SoC world all had a fair showing at the expo, MediaTek’s story is unique because of its explosive growth over the last few years. What started once as an unknown chipset designer for home electronics has evolved into a force to be reckoned with in the mobile space. As one MediaTek executive explained at CES, the company has been in the smartphone space for three years and has taken a ten million dollar business to a hundred million dollar one.
Now MediaTek wants to shake its image of a company that only designs chips for low-end phones. Though the market for low-cost, low-end mobile devices is rapidly expanding in the developing world MediaTek has set its eyes on a bigger prize: Qualcomm and Intel.
VR-Zone sat down with MediaTek’s Chief Marketing Officer Johan Lodenius to discuss the MediaTek advantage, and why an OEM should pick one of its chips over the competition.
VR-Zone: On the first day of CES, Asus announced a series of phones – some of them in the low cost space – that use Intel’s Atom chips. How do you feel about x86 in the mobile space? How can you compete against it?
We feel that we can compete effectively with Intel as well as Qualcomm. We just did an eight core SoC which is high performance and it beats Qualcomm, and actually it outperforms Qualcomm in the power management side for a better price point.
We definitely feel we can be very competitive against both Intel and Qualcomm. They have a lot of process technology strengths and they certainly are going to be a good competitor but they can’t just walk away with this market.
VRZ: What do you feel is the biggest threat to MediaTek’s ARM SoC business in the mobile processor war?
For us, processors and ARM is a component that we use to make our SoCs. There are a lot of other things that go into these SoCs, like graphics and power management.
Some of it is software, some of it is hardware. So, you can’t really talk about it being a processor war. It’s just part of it. Some companies like Intel want to talk that up, but from our perspective it’s much more than [just processors].
The key thing is to manage the system. If you have weaknesses on that level, then you’ve got huge issues and luckily we don’t.
VRZ: On the topic of management, how do you feel about big.LITTLE?
It’s a great technology.
We used it, and we were the first to launch it in a SoC with a tablet. It’s a brilliant technology – it works and saves a lot of power. That whole scaling, it’s the same thing we do with the eight-core chip, is very key.
Again the system aspects of the design is important – not necessarily that we’re using eight A7s in that eight core but the way we’re managing it. That’s the real trick: how we make use of those eight cores or four cores in a good way.
VRZ: What are some the advantages of your chip configuration versus the competition?
We were the first to use big.LITTLE and we were the first to fully utilize multiple cores in a fully scalable way, so that you could turn on one, two, seven, or eight in any configuration. Previously, the other companies, that I won’t name, were able to turn on blocks of cores but they didn’t have the granularity of being able to turn on individual cores. That makes a big difference for power management and scaling for demand.
Multiprocessing is a really important area for focus for us, because except for display that’s where most of the power is used. The power consumption on our latest eight-cores is way better than any competitor for the same performance. We have better performance when you run extended tests. If you run one benchmark, you’ll see we’re about the same, if you run ten at the tenth benchmark the other guys drop off because their phones get too hot. We manage the power consumption better than they do.
Mohit Bhushan, MediaTek’s general manager of US corporate marketing, who was sitting in on the conversation added this:
Intel has its strengths in process and processor, but where they are really weak is SoC integration. They have yet to prove themselves. They have discrete blocks but not the system. Qualcomm’s got the system but it’s too high-end. We have the mainstream advantage.
VRZ: Thanks for your time.
Kenny Doan contributed to this report.