Qualcomm’s Diversification Strategy Takes Shape at MWC22

March 2, 2022 / Olivier Blanchard

Every year, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona provides the perfect setting for technology companies and their partners to showcase innovative new solutions that leverage the mobile ecosystem to help solve problems, create new categories of services, and transition industries forward. If exhibitors can also differentiate themselves from their competition by creating unique value, more power to them. Companies large and small all get a shot at proving their worth and making their mark, which makes the event so important to keep an eye on. 

For Qualcomm, the event is usually a chance to follow its December Snapdragon Tech Summit with some new connectivity solutions and upgrades, announce its latest partnerships, and reiterate its overall strategy. But this year, bucking convention, Qualcomm entered the chat with a barrage of pre-show announcements almost too numerous to list. These announcements, which Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon somehow managed to cover in just under sixty minutes, ranged from an assortment of new product releases to a dizzying bevy of industry partnerships spanning half a dozen mobile-adjacent markets. At first glance, Qualcomm’s unusual volume of announcements might seem a tad overwhelming, perhaps even a bit fragmented, but it all makes perfect sense once you are able to see it all through the lens of the company’s One-Technology Roadmap, which Amon articulated during its Investor Day event in New York this past November. 

Qualcomm’s new gambit involves a $700 billion market opportunity laid out over the next decade, which the company has positioned itself to address by way of its highly versatile and adaptable Snapdragon platform. Key growth vectors for Qualcomm, in what essentially amounts to a 7x growth plan over the next 10 years, naturally include Mobile, but also expand into computing, automotive, AI, XR (combining AR, MR, and VR), the broad IoT, and the increasingly critical RF Front End (RFFE) market. 

Initially best known for its leadership in the Mobile industry, Qualcomm quietly started pivoting more aggressively towards diversification over the course of the last few years, but under Cristiano Amon’s leadership, that pivot has become the company’s core strategy for growth. At its center is the Snapdragon platform, which combines low-power, high-performance computing with a full array of premium end-to-end connectivity solutions, all of which can be adapted to a broad range of use cases and mobile-adjacent sectors. Qualcomm’s announcements this week mostly addressed seven core markets that are key to the company’s diversification strategy: 

  • Traditional mobile
  • Computing (specifically next-gen connected Arm-based PCs)
  • XR/VR/AR (the metaverse)
  • Infrastructure (modern wireless networks)
  • Automotive (Qualcomm’s vision for what it calls the Digital Chassis)
  • Wireless Fiber (Wireless connectivity matching fiber performance)
  • Industry 4.0 (the IIoT and smart logistics) 

Note that although many of Qualcomm’s growth opportunities now live outside of Mobile, the company’s One-Technology Roadmap doctrine is still driven by innovation sprouting from Qualcomm’s core Mobile business and being adapted to adjacent markets. (Great way for Qualcomm to maximize R&D, shorten time to market, and make the most out of its legion of Snapdragon features.) It is therefore not surprising that Qualcomm’s first major announcement focused on its new 5G modem-RF solution, the Snapdragon X70 5G, which sports the world’s first 5G AI processor built right into a modem-RF system. Bringing AI right into modem-RF systems makes sense now that AI is becoming increasingly critical to the optimization of features like mmWave beam management, adaptive antenna tuning, and power consumption. Case in point: the X70 also introduces Qualcomm’s new 5G AI Suite, which provides sub-6 GHz and mmWave 5G optimizations to deliver speed, latency, link robustness, coverage, and power efficiency improvements. These innovations, though initially designed for mobile devices, have an extremely high likelihood of finding their way to other use cases, from connected PCs, XR, the IoT, and the automotive space, to what Qualcomm refers to as the connected intelligent edge. That’s how Qualcomm’s One Technology Roadmap essentially forms the building blocks of its platform play.

Another example: Qualcomm also took the opportunity to bolster its overall portfolio of wireless connectivity solutions with the introduction of FastConnect 7800, which brings Wi-Fi 7 specs, significant Bluetooth audio advancements, and ultra-low latency to Wi-Fi. One of the key features being introduced is High Band Simultaneous (HBS) Multi-Link technology, which improves the performance and value proposition of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound, Bluetooth LE Audio and Bluetooth 5.3 in four ways: by extending connection range, by making Bluetooth connection transitions between devices smoother, by enabling devices to deliver reliable CD lossless quality wireless audio, and by reducing Bluetooth power consumption. Great stuff, but it gets better: Now, think about all the possible use cases for FastConnect 7800 in phones, PCs, XR, IoT (wireless speakers and headphones, for example), gaming, and the automotive space. Here again, we see how Qualcomm’s One-Technology Roadmap consistently finds its way to every key vector of growth to help drive and scale the company’s diversification strategy. 

Some vectors require their own hybrid approaches and strategies, however. Take Qualcomm’s next-gen ARM-based PC opportunity, for instance. On the one hand, Qualcomm’s focus on enterprise ecosystem expansion with partners like Microsoft doesn’t directly speak to automotive opportunities (yet) but does draw on the company’s success with and investments in adjacent areas of focus like network, wireless fiber, and semi. On the other hand, Qualcomm’s One-Technology Roadmap is more clearly visible with its partnership with Lenovo. The latest example of this is Lenovo’s new work-from-anywhere ThinkPad X13s, built on Qualcomm’s 8cx Gen 3 compute platform. That platform draws on Snapdragon’s premium Mobile performance and engineering to deliver multi-day battery life, 5G mmWave connectivity, advanced camera and audio performance, and end-to-end security to enterprise-class Arm-based laptops. And in a world where Qualcomm’s x86 competitors are still battling over performance per watt, Qualcomm is differentiating itself by not only competing on performance per watt, but by also competing on connectivity, imaging, and audio because it can. Here again, we see how Qualcomm’s ability to adapt its Mobile expertise to the needs of another market segment and create value there, is the company’s secret sauce.

Qualcomm’s partnerships with Microsoft and Lenovo in the PC space also open the door to a cross-pollination of XR and PC solutions that are very likely to lead to a merging of XR and PC capabilities. In other words, augmented computing (laptops being used with VR and AR headsets) is coming. Qualcomm is especially well-positioned to help drive (and capitalize on) that technological shift because its One-Technology Roadmap approach to innovation and growth is the foundation upon which Qualcomm is able to already innovate and support industry partners simultaneously in the PC space and in the XR space.

Qualcomm’s latest automotive announcements follow the same trajectory: the newly announced Connectivity-as-a-Service (CaaS) offering is made possible by Snapdragon’s existing Car-to-Cloud Services, integrated analytics, and on-device and cloud-enhanced apps/services. The combination of Wi-Fi 6E four-stream DBS and Bluetooth 5.3, which promise to deliver faster Wi-Fi speeds and increased bandwidth for connected applications and services in the automotive sector, can be traced back to the Snapdragon mobile platform. Every announcement from Qualcomm at Mobile World Congress this week, from its smart grid collaboration with Gridspertise and partnership with Bosch in the Industrial 4.0 space, and its collaboration with TikTok parent ByteDance in the XR space, to its private 5G network partner program announcement, perfectly fits into the company’s One-Technology Roadmap for growth. 

Qualcomm’s cascade of announcements at Mobile World Congress this week makes perfect sense once you understand the company’s broader strategic shift. Properly decoded, what we are seeing is Qualcomm’s market diversification strategy, propelled by its One-Technology Roadmap, playing out at scale in real-time. And based on the breadth of announcements this week, only a few short months since Qualcomm’s Investor Day presentation in New York, Cristiano Amon’s plan already appears to be off to a solid start. 

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