Can Qualcomm Stay Ahead of Intel and Nvidia?

As it stands, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) is a champion in the mobile chip manufacturer ring, but more recognized brands may step up as challengers in short time.

If a group of people heard the word “Intel” or “Samsung,” a good number of them would probably light up with recognition. “Nvidia” might generate fewer responses, but “Qualcomm” would probably be the least recognized of the four, despite the fact that its processors go into an ever growing number of mobile devices and have particular dominance in LTE.

Last year, 47 million LTE-capable chips were shipped, and Qualcomm was responsible for 86 percent of those. Samsung (SSNLF.PK) managed to snatch up 9 percent, which went to its own handsets. That statistic shows a clear LTE market dominance for Qualcomm, and as the 4G LTE network is the hot choice for smartphone users, it’s an important market for manufacturers.

However, Qualcomm’s dominance may not last, as more recognized brands are planning to step into the LTE-capable chip market — among them are IntelĀ (NASDAQ:INTC) and Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), which both won wide recognition with laptop and desktop computer processors, though Nvidia has been particularly known for graphics processors.

A delve into smartphone processors could be vital for Intel as PC sales decline, and LTE is the logical target. Intel has announced plans to make such processors, but doesn’t expect to have an integrated LTE modem and application processor ready until 2014 — in other words, Intel won’t be competing with Qualcomm’s LTE chips for another year.

Nvidia and Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) are also expected to come out with LTE chips on similar timelines. Nvidia has enjoyed some success with smartphone and tablet processors, so it could bank on that popularity to help gain market-share down the road.

This all leaves Qualcomm with about a year to try growing its brand recognition to match that of competitors. The company may need to consider deals with mobile device makers to get the brand stamped somewhere on the phone, similar to the way PCs with Intel or Nvidia chips usually have a sticker touting the brand.

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