Feb 26, 2015
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
Mobile developers are probably familiar with MDPs, but most people don't know much about them. Each new generation of Snapdragon processors provides a foundation for software developers to create innovative apps, games, and experiences. Some of these developers are looking to push the boundaries of what’s possible on a mobile device, which means they need the most cutting-edge hardware specs possible.
We don’t build consumer phones and tablets here at Qualcomm Technologies; we build the components that bring performance and connectivity to these mobile devices. MDPs give developers early access to the platforms and specs that will soon roll out in consumer mobile devices; we work with Intrinsyc who releases them in anticipation of the finished products. Think of these as the most forward-looking mobile devices possible, since introducing cutting-edge technologies is the whole point of them. You could also think of MDPs as technological sandboxes where developers can play freely and focus their creativity on imagining what’s next for our connected world.
There are plenty of smartphone enthusiasts who would love to get their hands on these, but Intrinsyc only releases a limited number. In order for developers to receive one they have to submit their project proposals to prove that the device won’t just end up in a collector’s case.
For a deeper look into this program with Intrinsyc we invited our resident expert, Rick Schwartz, Senior Product Manager for Qualcomm Technologies, to answer some questions about the MDPs and the upcoming Snapdragon 810 processors.
Why is it important to release an MDP based on Qualcomm Technologies’ Snapdragon processor?
Intrinsyc provides developers with early access to the newest Snapdragon processors, along with other next-gen technologies. That way they can begin to develop their own apps or hardware solutions now. When commercial devices which have been announced for the second half of 2015 are finally available they’ll be ready to support all the capabilities on their products.
Does the MDP get redesigned every time a new chip is released?
For the most part it’s a total redesign. Sometimes the tooling, the case, and all that stuff will stay the same. But often it depends on what new technologies make the most sense to put in front of developers. In fact, this was the first time a commercial MDP used a 4K Ultra HD display, but when in building this product there were a number of challenges since it would be the first actual tablet with these specs. So sometimes it’s about really pushing the envelope with these. Now, any developer can purchase one of these MDPs and take advantage of these capabilities.
What are some of the reactions you’ve heard from developers?
Well, the big thing is that it’s their first chance to get a Snapdragon 810 processor, which is something a lot of people want to get their hands on to develop 64-bit applications. Game developers are excited to play around with the Qualcomm Adreno 430 GPU. It has new capabilities that can open up new potential for them in terms of console-level graphics in their games. Multimedia developers want to see 4K playback on the 4K Ultra HD display, but there are also some advanced multimedia capabilities. This product also is capable of hardware-based H.264 and H.265 video capture and playback. The fact that its hardware based means that you can stream 4K video in a much more power-efficient manner. So it’s designed to have much longer battery life when you’re playing high-quality multimedia. There’s also some unique Wi-Fi connectivity in here. Not only is it 802.11ac, but it’s a new MU-MIMO, so you’ll see even faster Wi-Fi data speeds.
What differentiates these devices from competitor MDPs?
There’s one special capability that every MDP tablet has that none of the competitors have that I’m aware of. That is, Embedded Power Management, or EPM, capabilities, which offers very accurate measurement of power consumption for each hardware subsystem. I’m not talking about the overall device power, I’m talking about the actual power the CPU is using, the power the GPU is using, developers can see exactly how much power the display is using. They can even see things like Wi-Fi, audio and sensors. It’s almost like a microscope to really see where the power is going.
More importantly, developers can make changes based on that data. A lot of developers are interested in porting their apps so they run on the Qualcomm Hexagon DSP because they’re going to save power by doing that. With an MDP they can actually visualize how much power they’re saving. That translates to longer battery life, which is something everyone is interested in. There is also special software included called the Snapdragon Performance Visualizer. It’s a whole suite of tools; the exact same tools that OEMs and carriers are using for performance profiling. The fact that software developers in their garage can have access to some of the same software the OEMs have is something that’s very exciting for a lot of these developers. They just launch an application that’s pre-installed and instantly they have access to all this information.
What goes into deciding which new technologies will be included?
Most importantly, the technologies included should support all the capabilities that are in the chipset. This is our first 8-core 64-bit mobile processor in terms of an MDP. So that’s something that’s very notable. It’s also the first mobile device that has DDR4 memory—it’s not only a faster memory, but it also uses less power—as well as the first mobile device that has 4GB of [RAM] as well. So it’s very common for the platform to show the way. It gives people a way to see what they’re likely going to find on the shelf six months to a year from now. By making these special technologies available to developers, they’ll have the opportunity to find interesting ways to use them. The hope is that all of this technology is eventually going to make its way into commercial devices. When it does, developers will already have a sense of how to make the best of it.
Qualcomm Snapdragon, Qualcomm Adreno, and Qualcomm Hexagon are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.