Qualcomm and Intel: Evolving Strategies in the Mobile Chipset Industry in 2014

By Robert A. Burgelman, John Thomas
2014 | Case No. SM225 | Length 26 pgs.

This case discusses the evolving strategies in the mobile chipset industry in 2014, focusing on Qualcomm, the dominant technology company in the mobile industry and the leading chipset manufacturer. The case begins with the evolution of Qualcomm’s communication technology, highlighting the company’s consistent ability to lead the market in modem performance by deploying the latest, fastest communication technology. The case then details the competitive dynamics of Qualcomm’s strategy, including its technology adoption strategy; its “whole product strategy” (products and services); its mobile carrier strategy; and its modem and CPU (central processing unit) integration strategy. The company decided early on not to sell a “modem-only” chipset, but rather to build an entire mobile chipset solution, eliminating the need for handset manufacturers to incorporate a separate CPU chip, which reduced their costs and improved Qualcomm’s competitive position.

The case also discusses the transition the mobile market was going through in 2014, driven by several technological and marketplace changes. Those changes included slowing radio link improvements (as the technology approached a performance limit), which could potentially give Qualcomm’s competitors an opportunity to catch up to its technology. Other industry changes included the eroding power of mobile carriers and the growth of mobile subscribers in India and China, where demand was dramatically increasing for low-cost handsets. This made room for Taiwanese-based MediaTek to emerge as a strong player in the mobile chipset industry. Qualcomm also faced emerging competition from application processing and graphical processing players such as Nvidia. The case concludes with a discussion of a potential path for Intel to become a rising contender in the mobile chipset industry through its new low-power Atom microprocessor.

Learning Objective

The learning objective is for students to develop a deeper understanding of the rapidly changing mobile chipset industry, with special emphasis on the technology and strategy of Qualcomm, the industry’s biggest player.
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