The shift from computers to mobile devices is still a work in progress, and now the internet is buzzing with hype over the next big step in computing – wearable technology.
Big companies are already stepping up with products like NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE)’s Fuelband or Under Armour Inc (NYSE:UA)’s Armour39 to complement already popular wearable fitness devices such as the Fitbit or Garmin’s Forerunner. Next, we’ll see Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) release its much-anticipated Glass product, and there’s a ridiculous amount of hype over the idea that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is working on a watch.
With the proliferation of new wearable technologies just beginning, I’m not going to make any conjectures over which product consumers will flock to. However, I do believe this is another great opportunity for several companies that manufacture the chief components of wearable technology.
Every computer, no matter how big or small, draws upon a set of microchips. As devices get smaller and designers create more interactive products, form factor and power consumption become increasingly important.
QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) has had tremendous success in recent years as its chips find their way into Apple, Samsung, Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE), and Google products. While the company is well established as a high-end chipmaker for smartphones and tablets, a watch might require something less expensive to keep the price down.
Recently, the company broadened its portfolio of mobile chipsets to include two new entry-level families in an effort to target low-end smartphones in emerging markets. This is part of an effort to stave off growing competition from Broadcom Corporation (NASDAQ:BRCM), which has established close ties to Apple and lower-end Samsung products.
However, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) started producing industry leading 22nm chipsets last year, and is moving to 14nm this year. 22nm chips are about one-half the size (in surface area) of 28nm-32nm chips from QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) or Broadcom Corporation (NASDAQ:BRCM). That means Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) can produce chips for about half the cost, and when it starts producing 14nm chips the costs will drop further. Aside from cost advantages, smaller chips are also more power efficient.
A broader approach
For a broader focus on chipmakers, investors may look to ARM Holdings plc (ADR) (NASDAQ:ARMH), which has taken the fabless approach and only makes chip designs. While the company doesn’t actually manufacture chips, it’s the designer behind many of the most popular energy-efficient chipsets made by companies like Qualcomm and Broadcom. Its designs are also used as the basis for many other popular mobile chipsets from NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA).