Qualcomm runs out of mobile chips, could delay Windows 8 tablets?

by Doug Drinkwater

April 20 2012

Qualcomm, the world's largest mobile phone chipmaker by revenue, has confirmed that it is currently unable to keep up with the demand for mobile and tablet chips, a move which will no doubt cause some panic among partnering hardware manufacturers.

Qualcomm, perhaps best known for its 28nm S4 Snapdragon processor, which features in a raft of Android and Windows phones and tablets, announced that is unlikely to meet end-of-year targets in a conference call to company investors, and firm's shares have since fallen by 7%.

"We've been helping customers to see how they can swap in our Fusion 2 chipset... [but] we do expect to see some alternative non-Qualcomm chipsets used to solve that issue as well”, said CEO Steve Mollenkopf, when commenting on the issue.

The issue predominantly resolves around chips for smartphones, with some speculation that this issue could force a delay for Apple in launching the iPhone 5. However, Qualcomm does also work with a number of tablet manufacturers, like Lenovo, which had been planning to use the S4 chip for future tablet devices, while there has been some suggestion that the S4 would be used for Windows 8 tablets.

The (relative) good news is that Qualcomm - which designs, but outsources the production of the chips to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, is working on alternatives.

Having revealed that its processor factories are not able to meet demand for the S4 chip, the US firm is now in the process of trying to convince handset makers to use its other chips, although there is also a very real possibility that some handset manufacturers may be forced to switch suppliers, resulting in possible hardware price hikes.

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