For a long time now, Texas Instruments have been delivery chips for smartphones and tablets. In fact, Android was first shipped on processors from the Dallas company and it was the advancements in TI’s processors that got Android faster and faster. However, Qualcomm swooped in and the reign of the Snapdragon soon began, the first generation was in a boatload of phones in 2010 in fact, HTC didn’t use anything else. Competition in the ARM race – see what I did there? – has been heating up ever since and no longer is there one or two big players in the market. Samsung make the Exynos line of chips, Nvidia have hit it big with their Tegra line, Qualcomm are back again and the first pushing Cortex-A15 based chips. All of this hasn’t helped TI and in fact, they’ve lost some percentage points on their overall share price recently.
With that comes the news that Texas Instruments will be shifting its focus away from mobile applications – such as smartphones and tablets – to that of the car industry and manufacturing, where ARM is becoming more and more useful thanks to it’s embedded nature and the flexibility and stability of Linux. When asked about smartphones and tablets using TI’s chips in the future Greg Delagi – Senior Vice President for Embedded Processing – had this to say “We believe that opportunity is less attractive as we go forward.” I can’t say that I’d disagree with him – I’m no industry expert but, with as many forces as there are now in the mobile processor business it’s hard for any company to work their way back in. Especially when Samsung are reluctant to use anything but their own chips and Nvidia having all but locked down the mobile gaming sector. It’s not often you see a high-end device carry a TI OMAP processor these days – sure, the Galaxy Nexus and the new Kindle Fire HD line carry them but what else? Motorola have moved on to either Snapdragon processors or Intel and everybody else is using their own chips or sticking with Tegra 3 and Snapdragon S4.
A research analyst for Longbow Research had this to say after the announcement – “TI made it very clear they no longer want to be in the business of proving application processors for smartphones or tablets. What remains uncertain is for how long they’ll support customers.” Whilst TI might not be securing more customers they have a number of them to support – the big one being Amazon and whether or not the new Kindle Fire HD line will see a processor change in the future or if the next device will feature a different CPU altogether. Of course, it’s too far in the future to be talking of the next Kindle Fire just yet but it’s certainly said to see TI leave the mobile industry. After all, there’s no way you can have too much choice when it comes to processing power. The OMAP 4460 inside the Galaxy Nexus certainly keeps up with the rest of the pack but, one phone and a handful of customers isn’t enough to keep a section of your business viable.