While all eyes are on Qualcomm for the impending release of devices containing their high-end Snapdragon 835 SoC, this morning the company has a slightly different kind of announcement to make. After nearly a decade since the launch of the Snapdragon brand, Qualcomm is undergoing a brand redesign of sorts ahead of their next-generation product launches. Starting today, Snapdragon is no longer a processor; instead Snapdragon is a platform.

More formally, Qualcomm will no longer be referring to Snapdragon as the “Snapdragon Processor”, but rather the “Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile Platform”. Meanwhile at the bottom end of the product stack, the Snapdragon 200 series are getting ejected from the Snapdragon family entirely; they will now simply be part of the “Qualcomm Mobile Platform” family.

This rejiggering of brand names is, in all seriousness, exactly as weird as it sounds. But Qualcomm has some reasonably thought-out logic behind it.

In the US and abroad, Qualcomm has been promoting the Snapdragon brand in various forms for several years now, and they’ve actually had a fair bit of success at it. Snapdragon may not be a household name, but it’s likely to be better known than Qualcomm. So there is a certain degree of emphasis on making sure Qualcomm doesn’t get overtaken by their own brand name.

But the bigger shift here – and the real meat of the story – is from a processor to a platform. To be clear, the hardware isn’t changing; a Snapdragon SoC is still a Snapdragon SoC, and the Snapdragon brand continues to refer to the hardware and its supporting bits.

However Qualcomm wants to emphasize that a Snapdragon SoC is more than its CPU. It is a collection of various bits and bobs: a CPU, a GPU, a DSP, a cellular modem, RF transceivers, not to mention the various pieces of software and drivers that Qualcomm develops for their SoCs. Consequently, Qualcomm feels that “platform” is a better all-encompassing word of what they do than “processor”.

And they’re not wrong, at least to an extent. While we have various kinds of processors (CPUs, GPUs, etc), “processor” is first and foremost thought of as a CPU. This is a low-level liability for a company that is definitely in competition with Intel, and yet their flagship product is a full-on System-on-Chip rather than discrete components like a CPU with integrated GPU.

Furthermore while Qualcomm develops their own semi-custom CPU (Kryo), what really sets them apart from even other SoC vendors are the fully custom non-CPU bits like the modem and GPU. At the end of the day, Qualcomm wants to get more attention and focus on the hardware blocks they have developed and believe give them the greatest edge over the competition. And if they can better differentiate what they do from Intel, all the better.

The risk for Qualcomm, besides any potential derailment of the Snapdragon brand, is that “platform” is badly overused across the tech industry these days. Windows is a platform, Twitter is a platform, Steam is a platform. Whereas “processor” was a generic term for a specific part of a computer, “platform” is a generic term for just about any kind of computing environment. So while platform is probably a better fit for an SoC, it’s definitely also more generic.

Finally, let’s talk about the 200 series of SoCs, which are now no longer Snapdragon, leaving them as the “Qualcomm Mobile Platform”. While Qualcomm is taking this action at the same time as the above platform rename, the rationale is a bit different. Qualcomm is looking to solidify the Snapdragon brand as a brand for high-end processors, and as a budget SoC line powered by ARM’s Cortex-A7 CPU cores and 802.11n networking, the 200 series definitely doesn’t fall under that umbrella. The fact that Qualcomm is not branding the 200 series as something else does, on the surface, feel a bit odd, but at the same time it wouldn’t make much sense to put money and energy behind promoting a low-end brand.

In any case, by removing the 200 series from the Snapdragon brand, Qualcomm will be throwing out the lowest performing member of the family. Which, if all goes according to plan, will make it easier for Qualcomm to better communicate that Snapdragon is a high-end brand.

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  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    Actually the Centrino brand name has evolved over the years at least once. At no point did it ever mean on-die wireless. Here's a direct quote from Wikipedia that accurately describes what in meant previously and what it means in the present day:

    "Centrino is a brand name of Intel Corporation which represents its Wi-Fi and WiMAX wireless computer networking adapters. Previously the same brand name was used by the company as a platform-marketing initiative. The change of the meaning of the brandname occurred on January 7, 2010.

    The old platform-marketing brand name covered a particular combination of mainboard chipset, mobile CPU and wireless network interface in the design of a laptop. Intel claimed that systems equipped with these technologies delivered better performance, longer battery life and broader wireless network interoperability than non-Centrino systems."

    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrino
  • ikjadoon - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Maybe Qualcomm could make a stand on Android updates via a premium level of SoCs that will get guaranteed BSP updates for 4 years, instead of the "24 months if we can find some free time on the weekends".

    Platforms don't usually get depreciated every two years.
  • shabby - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Google just doesn't care about your updates.
  • socalbigmike - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

  • JoeMonco - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    But then how would Qualcomm get people to buy the new platform?
  • name99 - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Note what is missing from the slides. References to technologies that you've never heard of (iZat? Aqstic?) but no reference to Zeroth?
    Someone in QC brand management is going to have to find alternative employment soon...

    The other issue is why focus on Snapdragon as the brand rather than doing a better job of pumping up Qualcomm?

    I think the answer to both of these is that QC plans a MASSIVE push into servers. So I assume the logic is something like
    - when people hear QC they will think "super awesome total technology company"
    - when they hear Snapdragon will think "super awesome MOBILE technology"
    (right now QC and Snapdragon both trigger the same set of connotations, primarily mobile, and that's what QC want's to change)
    - when people hear Centriq (or whatever the final brand will be) they will think "super awesome SERVER technology"
    (and the idea is that Zeroth is primarily promoted as being part of that server world, rather than improving your mobile device? That's basically the same theory that Intel has when it claims IoT as a victory for Xeons, and obviously there is PART of the eventual total solution for which it is true).

    Centriq's supposed to be sampling H2 2017. I'm guessing we'll be getting a monthly update of various QC stories up till then (like the MS story last week) all designed to properly contextualize the ultimate release. Obviously in QC's dreams, the coming-out party has on-stage not just MS but also reps from Facebook, Baidu, Amazon, Google, WeChat... We'll see how many of them they can line-up.
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Reminder: If you're calling out other posters, then what you're posting isn't acceptable here.
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    calling out:
    To challenge the truthfulness or genuineness of: called the debater on a question of fact.

    I doubt that will stop the Trolls here from calling me out on verifiable facts

    They will continue posting unverifiable assumptions like the last posters, "I doubt" and "I think" comments that get my verifiable facts deleted
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, March 16, 2017 - link

    Bullwinkle, you were the one calling out people. This, and the general off-topic ranting, needs to stop. Please.
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Friday, March 17, 2017 - link

    Which Platform Specific rant was off topic ?

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