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Signage at Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego. Photo: Bloomberg.

Why Qualcomm Failed to Land Meta as Its Flagship AI Chip Customer

By  |  March 31, 2022 6:00 AM PDT
Photo: Signage at Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego. Photo: Bloomberg.

Qualcomm is the world’s biggest supplier of mobile phone processors, having perfected the art of packing computing capability into power-efficient chips. In 2019, the San Diego company declared its ambitions to use its energy efficiency expertise to break into the fast-growing market for the artificial intelligence chips used in data centers.

Qualcomm courted Meta Platforms in hopes of making Facebook’s owner the flagship customer for Qualcomm’s first AI data center chip, the AI 100, according to two people familiar with the matter. After Qualcomm released the chip in fall 2020, Meta tested it against a range of alternatives, including the chips Meta has been using and a specialized chip Meta developed internally to handle AI computing work. Qualcomm’s chip performed well, these people said, posting the best performance per watt of electricity used. That can have a big impact on operating costs for a company like Meta whose data centers support billions of users.

But by spring of last year, Meta had declined to use Qualcomm’s chip, the people said. Meta questioned whether the software that accompanied the chip was mature enough to wring the best performance from the chip on future tasks, they said. Meta decided to stick with its existing chips as it evaluates its options, one of the people said.

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