June 30, 2008 -- SAN DIEGO — From mainframes to minicomputers and then PCs, each new computing generation has displaced its predecessor by reaching a broader audience and costing far less. And each time, the dominant company in one generation loses control in the next.
That’s why the PC industry’s commanding chip maker, Intel, might do well to be alarmed by the computer chips being designed by Qualcomm, a maker of chips for cellphones. An engineer at Qualcomm’s gleaming corporate campus here demonstrated a palm-sized circuit board capable of displaying high-definition video. What was striking about the demonstration was not the quality of the video images, which is now commonplace. Rather it was that the microprocessor chip, called Snapdragon, drives the display with less than half the power of a similar chip recently introduced by Intel. Qualcomm designers say it will also cost less.