Windows Phone 8 to launch this fall with only four OEMs: Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei all powered by Qualcomm

What I have been predicting for more than a year has finally been confirmed today when Microsoft announced that all the future Windows Phone 8 handsets launching this fall will be powered by Qualcomm‘s SnapDragon S4 Plus / MSM8930 or MSM8960 SoC with the Adreno 225 or Adreno 305 GPU, which seems to once again be the only certified chipset partner for the platform. What is more surprising though is that only four OEMs are on board this time around: Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei. The rest are ..well..nowhere to been seen and frankly we shouldn’t care given the total lack of creativity and effort that was demonstrated in the past. For more Windows Phone features info hit the link after the break.

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Microsoft certifying Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC for Windows Phone 8

Let’s not act surprised here folks. It was no secret that Qualcomm would still be the preferred SoC provider for Windows Phone 8 so the latest rumors that Microsoft is currently testing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 aka the MSM8960 SoC for a future Windows Phone 8 Apollo handset isn’t the least surprising. The MSM8960 is the Dual-Core Krait beast featuring the Adreno 225 GPU which will be shipping in the LTE version of the HTC One X Android handset and from the looks of it Microsoft my have rightfully decided to skip the S3 generation in favor of the S4 for WP8 in part because the later has built-in LTE radios and because this particular SoC will also be Qualcomm’s first Windows 8 certified platform (even though the Windows 8 version may be the Snapdragon S4 Pro with the Adreno 320 GPU).

Now this may sound worrying to current Windows Phone owners who have only Snapdragon S1 ans S2 powered devices but as far as we know those handset shouldn’t have any problem running Windows Phone 8 later this year.

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Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait based SoC details unveiled

Those of you following closely the SoC market will be happy to learn that Qualcomm has finally unveiled technical details of its much anticipated SnapDragon S4 Krait based SoC yesterday in a relatively in-depth white paper that everyone can download. Krait based SoC are in track to hit the market in the first half of 2012 with the first MSM8960 dual 1.5Ghz core SoC later followed by the MSM8930, MSM8228 and MSM8974. I posted the full specifications back in July here but Qualcomm’s legal department laid the ban hammer on me and asked me to take down the full pdf. Anyway, here’s what you can expect from the first  28nm mobile SoC (using TSMC’s 28nm LP process) to hit the market which will also so be Windows 8 compliant thanks to it’s DirectX 9.3 support:

• Dual 1.5-1.7 GHz Krait/ L2 1MB
• 2x500MHz LPDDR2
• LTE FDD/TDD cat3(8960); DC-HSPA(8270) 21HSPA+(8260A) TD-SCDMA (8960, 8260A)
• 1080p HD Video@30fps; 3D 20Mpix
• Adreno 225 3D/2D 125M tri./sec (DX9.3)

The Krait CPU architecture is Qualcomm’s own variant of the AMR Cortex A8 but so heavily tweaked and changed that it can’t really be comparable to other competing Cortex A9 or future A15 CPUs. In terms of raw performances it’s will most probably be competitive with the A9 chipsets (if not better) but may lag a bit behind the upcoming higher clocked Cortex A15 SoCs which will come out in late 2012. Krait’s powers efficiency will probably help it in this case but this has yet to be seen. The big advantage that Qualcomm has is its time to market compared to all the new generation chipsets for its competitors which for the most part will all be using bigger processes (40nm or 35nm, only the the TI OMAP will be on 28nm). Because of this, we may have another QSD8250 situation next year where most of the Android handsets will be based on this chipset simply because it will be out at the right time (more than 6 months ahead of its most direct competition).

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Qualcomm simplifies Snapdragon branding

Qualcomm decided to simply it’s Snapdragon SoC naming convention today and make it easier for the average Joe to distinguish one SoC from another. Here’s how it will now look like:

- Snapdragon System 1 aka S1 Class: QSD8250 (65nm 1Ghz Scorpion CPU + Adreno 200 GPU) and the new MSM7227, MSM7627,MSM7225, MSM7625
- Snapdragon System 2 aka S2 Class: MSM7X30, MSM8X55, APQ8055 (45nm 800Mhz-1.4Ghz Scorpion CPU Adreno 205 GPU)
- Snapdragon System 3 aka S3 Class: APQ8060, MSM8260, MSM8660, QSD8672 (45nm up to 1.5GHE Dual-Core Scorpion CPU Adreno 220 GPU)
- Snapdragon System 4 aka S3 Class: All the upcoming Krait based SoC configurations MSM8228, MSM8930, MSM8960, MSM8974, APQ8064 ( 28nm up to 2.5Ghz Dual and Quad Scorpion CPU + Adreno 305, Adreno 320 GPU)

So nothing really ground breaking here and I personally prefer to refer to an Soc by its really name rather that something relatively vague like S3 Class.

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New Qualcomm 2011 / 2012 roadmap and SoC specifications: MSM8960, MSM8930, MSM8974 and Adreno 320

Remember the old Qualcomm 2011/2012 roadmap I posted about a couple of weeks ago? Well, here’s a new more up-to-date one that just appeared on the net. The internal PDF document is principally about the company’s LTE chipsets and technology but there’s also so new info about the upcoming Krait based 28nm dual-core SoCs that will start shipping in less that 6 months.

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Qualcomm roadmap detailed: Quad Core CPU and GPU chipsets coming later this year

I just came across a internal Qualcomm presentation (dated March 2011 from an Android event in Korean) detailing the company’s current SoC roadmap and comparing its Scorpion CPU architecture against its Cortex-A9 competitors. keep in mind that this document is obviously biased towards Qualcomm’s own products so take all the claims presented with a grain of salt but there are quite a few interesting pieces of information in there.

First lest start with the roadmap pictured above. As you can see the first chips based on the new Krait micro-architecture (MSM8930, MSM8960, APQ8064 and the unknown MSM8270) are only expected to appear/sample (?) at the end of this year. The initial press release sated that the first MSM8960 samples were expected in Q2 2011 but I4m guessing that things may a been delayed a bit (or the “availability” mentioned in today’s document is actually OEM availability). The MSM8X55 which was first launched in the HTC Desire HD is now been touted as having 1.4Ghz CPU (up from the 1Ghz clock currently used by most OEMs) and also now apparently supports Stereoscopic 3D play/rec (this is the first time I see this features mentioned on thee 8X55 so it may be only possible on the 1.4Ghz version). This 1.4Ghz clocked MSM8X55 will first appear in the Samsung Galaxy S Plus in Europe.

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First Adreno 220 benchmarks show that it is a beast

Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU’s have always been seen as being a sub-par graphics compared to competing offerings from Imagination (PowerVR) and others like NVIDIA’s Tegra. This was essentially true with the Adreno 200 on Windows Mobile and Android mainly because of poor driver quality. Things are a bit different on Windows Phone 7 where the Adreno 200 is the only currently supported GPU, thanks to the tight integration with the OS and relatively good support provided by Microsoft. You can check out my recent Fable Coin Golf video to see that some pretty nice things can be done with it.

The Adreno 205 which is part of the MSM8X55 SoC package is a step forward in terms of performance and can be comparable in some case with the current top dog, the PowerVR SGX540 as seen in my benchmarks here. Qualcomm has also recently released new drivers for the 205 which slightly improves its performance compared to what you see in my benches (they are the ones used by Sony Ericsson in the Xperia Play).

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Qualcomm MSM8660 and Adreno 220 GPU demo

Here’s a nice video I shot yesterday at Qualcomm’s booth showing the Adreno 220 GPU in action running an OpenGL ES 2.0 demo developed by Southend interactive (on Android). The development device that you see hooked up to the HDTV via the mini-HDMI port packs Qualcomm’s MSM8660 dual-core CPU and Adreno 220 GPU that is going to be found in HP Palm’s TouchPad (under the APQ8060 name) and apparently the HTC Pyramid aka Sensation / (note that the output displayed on the TV is WVGA content upscaled to 1080P). I had a small chat with a couple of Qualcomm guys about their future SoCs and also the Windows Phone 7. I was once again told that they were working really closely with Microsoft right now on current Adreno 200 support (HLSL/ Programmable Shader support in XNA should by coming this year) and future Chassis which are being discussed and finalized right now (that’s what I got from the hints I was given). MS apparently is also wants to support higher resolution screens so newer SoCs are going to be certified. Because the of the Adreno’s close architectural similarities with the Xbox360 Xenos GPU the company can squeeze more out of it compared on Windows Phone 7 compared to Google on Android (there’s also the fact the Microsoft has total control over the API which is Direct3D Mobile).

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Qualcomm announces new Quad-Core chipset clocked at 2.5Ghz with Quad-Core Adreno 320 GPU

Qualcomm has just announced its new family of Snapdragon products which aren’t expected to see the light of the day before the end of 2012. This new family will be composed of the single-core MSM8930, the dual-core MSM8960 and the quad-core APQ8064. All three will be using the latest 0.28nm process and features the newest Adreno 320 GPU with the APQ8064 having a quad-core version of it. It also goes without saying that these will also natively be able to render stereoscopic 3D content, LTE and have build-in NFC support. Qualcomm president Raj Talluri was also happy to point out that the recent Nokia and Microsoft partnership was a big win for the company given that they are the only certified chipset maker for Windows Phone 7 (his comment makes it seem like it will still be the case..). Make sure to check out my hands on preview of the MSM8660 and Adreno 220 GPU here and follow me on Twitter. Check out the full press release after the break:

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