Snapdragon chip powers itself into Nexus One

Qualcomm's processor is part of Google's unveiling just 12 hours after making the leap to a Lenovo laptop.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

The Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is on a tear. It has appeared in the high-profile Google Nexus One and a Lenovo laptop all in a span of about 12 hours.

Google Nexus One: Qualcomm inside
Google Nexus One: Qualcomm inside Google

Last June, the Snapdragon debuted in the compelling but low-profile Toshiba TG01, a big-screen (4.1 inches) smartphone.

That was then. Now it's in the Google Nexus One, which is quickly rivaling the Apple iPhone and Motorola Droid for device star power. Google prominently lists Snapdragon on its specification page as the "Qualcomm QSD 8250, 1GHz."

Previous Qualcomm silicon powered the T-Mobile G1--the first phone to run Google's Android OS--that was announced back in September of 2008. "We...have a very long and successful history with Google," said Luis Pineda, senior vice president of marketing and product management at Qualcomm CDMA Technologies in a statement Tuesday.

Snapdragon should come in handy for applications such as Flash Player 10.1, which is coming to Android and will run on the Nexus One. Adobe's Adrian Ludwig calls it "a very high performance chip" and he demonstrated in a video how it would handle the graphics on National Geographic's Web site.

Qualcomm's processor has special significance because it has also made the leap to laptops. About 12 hours before the Google Nexus One event, it was revealed that a tiny smartbook--a non-Windows-Intel version of the Netbook--from Lenovo is using Snapdragon. That device will be sold at AT&T Wireless retail outlets, putting it right next to Netbooks based on Microsoft software and Intel Atom processors, said Jeff Orr, senior analyst at ABI Research.

"The news is that this is the first non-Atom (Netbook) that is being sold by a network operator," Orr said.

Lenovo Skylight smartbook also uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip.
Lenovo Skylight smartbook also uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Lenovo

Should Intel be worried? Maybe not yet, but Qualcomm has stated publicly that it is working on a dual-core version of the chip. The future Qualcomm QSD8672 will have two CPU computing cores capable of 1.5GHz performance and support for 1080p high-definition video and mobile TV, among other features.

And tablets--effectively oversize smartphones--are on the way. Consumers can expect a raft of smartbook announcements this year that come in a tablet design, not the classic clam shell. Faster processors are necessary (including Texas Instrument's OMAP processor and Nvidia's Tegra chip) to handle the hardware and software workloads of these increasingly sophisticated devices.

Meanwhile, Intel's next move with the Atom processor is to get it into smaller device such as smartphones via its Moorestown technology due in the first half of this year.

Updated at 9:15 p.m. PST: adding Adobe discussion.