Though its planned acquisition of top auto chipmaker NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) - Get Report didn't go through, Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get Report is still seeing a lot of momentum in a growing automotive chip market via its organic investments, as the company's announcements at its Monday CES press conference highlighted.
A year after disclosing at CES it had a $3 billion automotive order pipeline, Qualcomm says the pipeline is now above $5.5 billion. The company added it has now landed infotainment and "digital cockpit" design wins with 18 of the world's top 25 automakers. While it has long been a major supplier of cellular modems for automakers, Qualcomm has only recently become a leading supplier of infotainment processors -- Nvidia (NVDA) - Get Report , via its Tegra processor line, has been a major player here for some time.
Qualcomm used its event to unveil what it calls its third-gen Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit platforms; they cover processors as well as a slew of wireless connectivity options (4G/5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.) and value-added software functions. The platform is segmented into three tiers -- known as Performance, Premiere and Paramount -- that provide varying levels of processing power.
Also getting airtime: Qualcomm's efforts to support the budding cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) market, which aims to enable solutions that let cars obtain information and safety alerts from other cars, as well as radios built into nearby infrastructure. The company was particularly eager to highlight C-V2X's safety potential, showcasing how it could be used to alert a driver about a nearby pedestrian or warn a driver taking a left turn featuring poor visibility about an oncoming car.
During Qualcomm's event, Ford (F) - Get Report exec Don Butler announced that his company's cars will include C-V2X radios starting in 2022. At CES, Qualcomm is running demos with Ford, Audi and motorcycle maker Ducati of vehicles supporting C-V2X with the help of its 9150 C-V2X chipset.
A partnership was also announced with Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report through which the Alexa voice assistant is fully integrated with Snapdragon-powered infotainment systems. In a demo, Qualcomm's silicon was shown powering an Alexa-capable system with a 30-inch main display showing a variety of information and content, along with two rear displays playing Prime Video content.
Though the system's displays and multimedia capabilities were impressive, the Alexa portion of Qualcomm's demo didn't go as planned. While Qualcomm exec Nakul Dugal was going over the system's features, Alexa unexpectedly blurted out, "No, that's not true," a comment that yielded considerable laughter from the audience. Later, Alexa failed to respond to a voice command issued while Cat Stevens' "Wild World" (launched with an Alexa command, admittedly) played in the background.
When asked at the end of the event whether Qualcomm's platform will eventually support Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Report Google Assistant, exec Patrick Little suggested Qualcomm is willing to do so. "We're very agnostic in our ecosystem," he said, while adding automakers often dictate which technology partners Qualcomm works with.
"What I like best about Qualcomm's auto play is that it leverages almost every investment already sunk into smartphones, so it's very low risk and very affordable," said tech analyst Patrick Moorhead following Qualcomm's event. He also expressed optimism about Qualcomm's C-V2X efforts, arguing C-V2X is "the kind of complex, interrelated problem that the company has been successful with in the past."
Though its auto efforts took center stage, Qualcomm also spent some time at the beginning of its press event talking up its 5G momentum. The company disclosed that it now has 30-plus design wins (predominantly for smartphones) for devices set to launch in 2019 that will use both its recently-announced Snapdragon 855 processor and its Snapdragon X50 modem.
Notably, Qualcomm added that nearly all of these devices will also use its RF front-end chips. The company has long argued that 5G gives it a major opportunity to gain RF chip share, due to the fact that 5G's technical requirements increase the value of an end-to-end silicon solution covering a phone's modem, RF front-end and everything in between.