Apple's 64-bit chip hit Qualcomm 'in the gut'

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By Vanessa Francisco | December 18, 2013 6:05 PM EST

It appears that Apple's fast and aggressive move to a 64-bit processor with the iPhone 5S sent a sucker punch to its rivals that left them reeling. "The 64-bit Apple chip hit us in the gut," says a Qualcomm staff to HubSpot. "Not just us, but everyone. We were slack-jawed, stunned, and unprepared. It's not that big a performance difference right now since most current software won't benefit but in Spinal Tap terms it's 32 more. Now everyone wants it."

Qualcomm's chief marketing head Anand Chandrasekher called Apple's transition as a "marketing gimmick" and even claimed that the 64-bit processor offered zero benefit to consumers. However, it only shows that his comments did not reflect Qualcomm's views because the company issued a retraction later on, coming out with its own 64-bit silicon known as the SnapDragon 410. The company also reassigned Chandrasekher.

Apple's decision to move from a 32-bit processor to a 64-bit one was interesting because iPhone 5S continues to be a 32-bit platform. It still runs 32-bit code and doesn't require extra bits to be able to access more RAM space, with the iPhone having only 1GB of RAM. There are two possible reasons why Apple made the leap.

One is just plain marketing. When everyone is stuck in an aging 32-bit, having a 64-bit would make Apple appear futuristic and high-tech. The second one is to proof the future. Apple wants to show the consumers, its rivals and developers where it is headed.

One thing is clear though, once Apple came out with the new 64-bit mobile processor, everyone suddenly wanted to have the same specs. Apple remains to be innovating, always leaving its competitors fumbling to follow behind.

Most people in the mobile industry thought the 64-bit was currently not a big deal since most devices still can't take advantage of it yet. "The roadmap for 64-bit was nowhere close to Apple's, since no one thought it was that essential," the Qualcomm employee says. "The evolution was going to be steady. Sure, it's neat, it's the future, but it's not really essential for conditions now."

Before, the iPhone was fast, not because of a powerful processor but because Apple integrated a hardware and software system that it could tightly control. But now, Apple also claims advantage in raw horsepower. Its new 64-bit A7 chip is now the equivalent to a big V12 engine in automobiles.

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