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Apple's 64-bit A7 chip a 'marketing gimmick', Qualcomm exec says

Qualcomm is also developing a 64-bit mobile chip, but for chip design and engineering purposes

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Apple's 64-bit A7 processor in the iPhone 5s is more a marketing stunt than a technical enhancement and though it will not deliver any immediate benefits to smartphone users, there are other reasons to move to 64-bit, a Qualcomm executive said on Tuesday.

"I know there's a lot of noise because Apple did [64-bit] on their A7," said Anand Chandrasekher, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Qualcomm, in an interview. "I think they are doing a marketing gimmick. There's zero benefit a consumer gets from that."

A benefit of 64-bit is more memory addressability, but that is not relevant in today's smartphones or tablets, Chandrasekher said. The iPhone 5s has only 1GB of DRAM.

"Predominantly... you need it for memory addressability beyond 4GB. That's it. You don't really need it for performance, and the kinds of applications that 64-bit get used in mostly are large, server-class applications," said Chandrasekher, who previously ran Intel's mobile platforms group.

The 5s is the first smartphone with a 64-bit chip, and almost a year ahead of its Android smartphone rivals. So far, 64-bit chips have largely been relegated to PCs and servers, but the technology's merits in smaller mobile devices has been questioned.

Apple claims the iPhone 5s is two times faster than its predecessor, and that the A7 brings desktop-style computing to the smartphone. But benchmark tets have raised questions about how much of the performance gains can be credited purely to 64-bit capabilities.

Qualcomm is the one of the world's top suppliers of chips for smartphones and tablets, and its Snapdragon chips are used in Android and Windows Phone smartphones. The chip maker ultimately will deliver a 64-bit mobile chip, but sees the move as more beneficial from engineering, chip design and OSes standpoints.

"From an engineering efficiency standpoint it just makes sense to go do that. Particularly the OS guys will want it at some point in time," said Chandrasekher, who declined to say when the its 64-bit chip would be introduced.

Consumers and tablet and smartphone makers won't drive the demand for 64-bit chips, Chandrasekher said.

Chip makers are upgrading to 64-bit in order to keep up with the latest chip designs and to reduce manufacturing costs. Qualcomm designs chips based on architecture from ARM Holdings, which in 2011 introduced its first 64-bit architecture and subsequently announced 64-bit processor designs. Top ARM-based chip makers like Samsung and Nvidia have already announced that they would make 64-bit ARM-based processors.

But outside the iPhone 5s, the first 64-bit ARM-based chips are expected to appear in servers like Hewlett-Packard's Moonshot. Companies like AppliedMicro, Advanced Micro Devices and Calxeda are expected to ship 64-bit ARM-based server chips starting next year.

Qualcomm is keeping tabs on the server market, but its interest remains in the smartphone and tablet markets. More than 500 products with Snapdragon are in development, 40 of which are tablets.

Qualcomm will also continue to back Windows RT and invest in chip development around the OS, Chandrasekher said.

Microsoft recently introduced the Surface 2 tablet, which has an Nvidia Tegra 4 chip. But Dell last week discontinued its only Windows RT tablet, the XPS 10, which ran on a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Lenovo, Asus and Samsung have already discontinued Windows RT tablets.

"We've been investing quite a bit into both Windows Phone and Windows RT. We're one of Microsoft's partners," Chandrasekher said. "We're optimistic in the way we invest in the marketplace, we're cautious of the outlook in terms of what the revenues might look like."

Another area of focus is the wearable market. The company last month introduced the Toq smartwatch, which is more a showcase of the company's Mirasol display, WiPower wireless charging and Bluetooth headset technologies. Only a few thousand Toq smartwatches will be produced every year.

Chandrasekher hopes the smartwatch will give a new lease on life to the low-power Mirasol display technology, which has been used in just a handful of e-readers and tablets. He hopes Mirasol will ultimately make it to smartphones and other devices.

There will be a lot of experimentation in wearables, and it is tough to predict what devices will succeed, Chandrasekher said. Watches can be easily accepted, but completely new devices like wearable glasses could face a challenge, he said.

"Google Glass, I'm not a huge fan of that," Chandrasekher said. "That's a little harder to predict if that will be successful."

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com



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CyberAngel said: coming from ARM v8

Alex said: I wouldnt be surprised if Chandrasekher gets fired from Qualcomm -- its his big mouth that also got him fired from Intel HA HA HA What does a marketing guy know about the Engineering part -- Techs know that 64-bit can do twice as much as 32-bit even just simple data fetching which is faster fetching 4 bytes of data at one time or 8 bytes of data Duh Chandrasekher is one duffus who probably got his degree from the streets of Bombay Of course software needs to play a part too If he is saying the apps running on a 64-bit machine do not take advantage of that width then of course there is no real advantage if using a 64-bit architecture But we all know that software are usually updated to take care of the even though initially on 32-bit apps will be available Anyway a duffus like Chandrasekher has no room in any Tehnical company

Hari Prasad said: Apple made a write move and at right time 2014 will be the year where almost all computers will move to 64 bit given largely popular 32 bit Windows XP facing end of life And all new computer is already at 64bit So having mobile phone also at 64bit will give Apple Developers better mileage at developing for App store Without thinking about Hardware compatibilities Developing 32bit apps on 64bit system is like saving a word doc in 2003 format It looses some advance features not available in new one Building compatibility in more components like server hosting app logic which dont exactly use Dev Tools will be increasingly painfully without 64bit supportApple gave head start for developers to experience the challenges of moving to 64bit Android is at get loss given fragmented development Android developers need to support from 233 onwards even in 2014 and may be even after as Dev Tools will be harder to maintain the day Supporting 32bit development on 64bit machinesApart from Apple Windows Phone has advantage moving to 64bit now than later given very few OEMs and market share to try things without customer backfire

franksspam said: Many of us pointed out how irresponsible this article was when it was originally posted Now Qualcomm agreeshttpwwwmacworldcomarticl

Shiva said: My experience with 64 bit in windows was the files got larger programs default unoptimized versions got about 30 slower because everything was 64bit word padded and more bytes had to be shoveled thru the processor to process the same amount of instructionsOff course certain types of videogamingintense-computing apps got fasterMemory addressability also improved hugelyNot sure how much of these apply to a phone A general purpose gaming device and all-in-miniaturized wonder yes but a phone I guess time will tell

Mark said: You make very good points I agree Sadly those Apple fanboys are never going to accept the word of a mere mortal when it contradicts their god of electronics

FakeDR said: Shamelesshttptechfortunecnncom20

spuy767 said: That always struck me as the no pun intended of sarcasm

Steven Noyes said: There may be some improvements due to architectural changes as a whole but it still has very little to do with the processor actually being 64-bitYou dont get one without the other when going from ArmV7 to ArmV8 You are swallowing the it is a marketing gimmick koolaidBasically allowing it to do more in a single clock cycle I cant say this is true for the A7 as I simply dont know enough about the low level technical details of the chip In any case you may see marginal increases in speed because of that but were talking no more than probably 5 on a processor like thatSo you dont know so you are claim the improvements are minor You do realize the results are out and the A7 clock for clock runs 32 BIT code substantially faster than 5 faster Once an app is recompiled for 64 BIT code rather trivial the overall gains are about 100 on average Some classes like NSNumber show MASSIVE gains specifically because of being 64 BIT Others less

Steven Noyes said: Android HAS to have massive amounts of RAM to get around a poor design of using automatic garbage collection

J. B. said: The mikeashcom link above has a technical description you should read Basically most of the performance gains come from the longer word size allowing the runtime to save reference counts and other data inline Memory management is twice as fast in the common case and even faster in more complex cases as it has less need to access shared and hence locked data structuresYoure right that if you have a program that never allocates any memory and never uses any integers larger than 32 bits wide of course all of its performance gains will have to come from programmer optimizations In practice though memory management is kind of a big deal

J. B. said: He downplayed user-end features that Apple didnt have though he did this less and less over time With performance when Apple was behind he simply said nothingThroughout the time when it was Intel versus PPC sometimes one chip would be ahead and sometimes the other would Whenever there was an Apple conference if PPC was ahead Apple did some demos to show this If Intel was ahead you could tell because Apple focused on other things insteadBut I dont remember Steve Jobs ever saying that CPU performance was just a marketing gimmick They have a history of picking a CPU architecture that has more room than anybody thinks they need right now They put a 68000 in the Mac when IBMs latest PC was using an 8088 for example

AlG said: Anand Chandrasekher senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Qualcomm sounds like he should be working at Microsoft where lack of vision is expected

aardman said: I dont believe a Qualcomm executive given the business theyre in could be that thick It is his public pronouncement actually that can be rightfully described as a marketing gimmick

ZenDragon said: And that I would believe However consider how that markets Updated Architecture vs Now 64-bit Of course the 64-bit sounds more marketable even though that in and of itself is not the biggest source of said improvements which makes it a gimmic IMO I dont mean to imply that it isnt an improvement just that it has less to do with that and more to do with everything else I guess this argument is kind of pointless otherwise lol

Eric Swinson said: If you have a single process running on your phone that requires more the 4GB of ram you should probably consider doing that work on another device Like a laptop or desktop Unless of course its an exceptionally cold day and you need to keep a furnace running in your pocket at least for 20 minutes or so while the battery rapidly depletes it charge I predict the first android phones to go 64-bit will all ship with less than 4GB of ram Even the first 64-bit PCs and Macs shipped with well under 4GB of ram While consumers could upgrade them most stuck with the 256 or 512 MB they typically came with That doesnt mean they didnt benefit from moving to 64BitThis is just an exec trying to diffuse questions concerning Qualcomms lack of 64-bit ARM processors Both in the marketplace and on their roadmap

Eric Swinson said: Right the real news is not that the iPhone is 64 bit Its that iOS is now 64 bit When you start looking beyond the iPhone and iPad and see where else iOS can be used like the Apple TV the possibilities start opening up Unlike the mobile devices the ATV has a continual power source and can be loaded up with gigs of memory for dealing with things like 4K videos realtime streaming from multiple sources and a host of other goodies that take not only lots of processing power but large amounts of ram

FakeDR said: You mean these resultshttpwwwanandtechcomshow

Marcos said: I hope you find this comprehensive enough if not let me know as more has been publishedhttpwwwanandtechcomshow

Seppo Taalasmaa said: Now the question is where to find these benchmarks it performs better according to benchmarks is just a marketing buzz unless the benchmarks are inspectable in public there are more and less meaningful benchmarks



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