GamesBeat

Qualcomm is ready to deliver mobile users a real gaming platform (interview)

raj talluri

Video game makers haven’t always been thrilled about making mobile games. But Qualcomm hopes to change that. Raj Talluri — the senior vice president of product development at the San Diego, Calif.-based mobile chip maker — addressed the DICE Summit, an elite game industry event in Las Vegas, to wake them all up. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors have been used in more than 500 million Android devices. And smartphones are selling at a rate of more than 500 million a year. That’s a pretty large market to target.

Soon enough, it won’t just be numbers that are attractive. Mobile chips are coming soon with as many as eight cores. That means that these low-power chips will be able to come close to the processing power of current-generation consoles on smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. And mobile networks will be carrying data at 150 megabits a second. That will make your cable modem look slow.

We interviewed Talluri at the DICE Summit. Here’s an edited transcript.

VentureBeat: So your talk was telling everybody about the size of the opportunity out here.

Raj Talluri: Yeah, and the technology that we do.

VB: Do you get any debate about that right now? In years past, these guys would have looked at the smartphone as a platform that couldn’t do what you wanted it to do. They would have ignored it. There are people who experimented with smartphones, and they did very well, but for the most part, the more hardcore teams were still working on consoles. What’s interesting about the timing right now, and how this is changing? Are you seeing some of the game developers change their minds?

Talluri: It’s a couple of things. One is performance, what processors have done in the last few years. They were like little toys before. You couldn’t do anything compared to what you can do now. That’s one thing. The other aspect of it is that the market opportunity is much bigger now. Selling 500 million smartphones. Another thing we’re finding is that some of the traditionals may not be doing it, but almost every one of them at least has a division that does mobile. They’re getting into it. And there are newcomers that have made a killing.

Obviously, there’s money to be made. The numbers are real. For a long time, it was only on iOS, but I think the Android Marketplace is working out. I talk to people now, and they’re able to make money on Android. Discovery is working. Operator billing is working. Free-to-play is working. Lots of things are changing now. But we’re still at the beginning. There’s a lot more to come.

raj 2VB: Does the ecosystem seem fairly complete to you?

Talluri: No. The ecosystems can always be better. I think it’s still in the beginning stages. Honestly, to me, this concept that you have to buy a game or get a game, and it comes on one platform one day, and then you have to buy it on another platform — in time, it’ll go away. I mean, how many times have I bought a game on Xbox or whatever, and then I have Windows Live on my phone, and it doesn’t work together? What happened? Why don’t I get the mobile version when I get the other version? Those kinds of things should go away. There shouldn’t be any real reason for it. I think all these things will happen with time.

VB: I find I’m looking forward to 150 megabits a second than anything else. [Laughs]

Talluri: It’s on the way. We showed it in the booth. We had it running.

VB: What is that going to do for gaming on mobile devices?

Talluri: Clearly, latency, when you play — it’s not just connected to bandwidth. It’s also about how the network is structured and how much data you can transfer. Those are the two big things. I think that this whole client-powered thing will become bigger, too. We’ll perform a lot of the work on the phone. We’ll do some more of it in the cloud and then ship it back and forth. It’s no longer about having all the processing in one place. That’s a paradigm shift that will happen.

VB: Something like OnLive, where you can do more cloud gaming?

Talluri: Yeah, but not just cloud gaming. Some of those things are not very scalable. You put so much computing in one place, but you can’t scale it. You undertake it when you have a powerful computer on both sides, and high bandwidth in between. It’s distributed gaming, more than cloud gaming. That’s how I think about it. You have a pretty powerful processor on this side, too.

VB: Predicting when we’ll get 150 megabits per second of bandwidth is a hard thing, though, right? You build the capability into the chipsets, but what’s AT&T’s schedule like, or Verizon’s schedule? Once they build it, will the capacity be upheld? The capacity of 3G and 4G seemed great until people started using it and sending YouTube videos all over the place, and then it crashed the whole system.

Talluri: Well, I don’t know if it crashed the whole system. My 4G still runs pretty well. [Laughs]