Will Cloud, Servers and Data Centers Be the Next Growth Frontiers for Qualcomm?

When most consumers and investors think of Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM), they probably think of mobile devices and smartphones for the Snapdragon mobile processors. This is among the high-end processors for mobile computing, but Qualcomm shares have been stuck in the mud as they have had a time growing the market endlessly when other cheaper alternatives are competing with it.

At least investors now may start thinking about Qualcomm outside of that tiny mobile box. Qualcomm made three different announcements on Thursday which are outside of mobile computing — data centers, servers, and storage. One of the announcements made on Thursday was that Qualcomm Technologies and Xilinx, Inc. (NASDAQ: XLNX) announced a strategic technical collaboration.

While the underlying technology and planned effort may not be a new concept to investors, the investing community has turned its back on Qualcomm’s prior days of endless growth from mobile computing in smartphones and mobile web devices. Maybe this will prove that point — at just under $58.00, Qualcomm’s stock is still down over $20.00 from its 52-week high.

The joint release showed that the two companies will deliver heterogeneous computing solutions on Qualcomm Technologies’ server platforms from card level to highly integrated solutions. It turns out that the targets include compute acceleration, big data analytics, machine learning, storage and CloudRAN. Thursday’s press release said:

As workloads in cloud computing infrastructure demand higher compute capabilities, more power efficiency and greater flexibility, both companies are committed to delivering new high-performance solutions to exceed these industry needs. Qualcomm Technologies’ 64-bit ARMv8-based server processor with Xilinx FPGAs should enable customers to gain compelling performance, performance/watt and lower total cost of ownership. Xilinx’s All Programmable portfolio serves as a scalable reconfigurable acceleration platform that can be optimized on demand to any workload.

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A second press release was with Mellanox Technologies, Ltd. (NASDAQ: MLNX). The press release announced a multi-phase technology collaboration to bring Qualcomm’s server technology ecosystem one step closer to commercialization. Mellanox will offer Ethernet and InfiniBand interconnect solutions that will be optimized for scalable server and storage infrastructures. That release said:

Mellanox’s product leadership with 10, 25, 40, 50, and 100 Gigabit per-second Ethernet and InfiniBand interconnect technology provides solutions for the most efficient hyperscale deployments including Web 2.0, cloud, big data, database and storage applications. When paired with Qualcomm Technologies’ server CPU, the combined solution will enable advanced and cost-effective platforms for the next generation of datacenter infrastructure, delivering a significant return on investment.

Investors and analysts have so far yet to buy into Qualcomm’s plans. That doesn’t mean that Qualcomm cannot win, because it may do quite well and this could be the company’s next avenue for growth. Still, the stock performance has spoken for how much enthusiasm is there (or is not). One sign of a lack of enthusiasm is that Qualcomm is valued at only about 12 times earnings estimates for 2016. The consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters are also not projecting any real growth in revenues nor in earnings per share worth mentioning.

Qualcomm shares closed up 1.8% at $57.66 on Thursday, with a 52-week range of $52.17 to $78.53. It has a consensus analyst price target of $72.20, but the drop in the shares has moved its dividend yield up to about 3.3%.

Qualcomm enjoyed a major growth phase under the explosive growth of the mobile web. Other companies have begun biting into its quality market share leadership in that space. Now it is up to Qualcomm to prove whether it can go grab more share in other markets.

There is a dual issue here for Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) and Qualcomm. Intel was the envy of the processors for the PC market, but it largely missed out on the mobile web explosion. In an effort to get into the space it is operating that effort on a loss. Whether or not Qualcomm will have to do the same for very long or not remains to be seen. That being said, technology powering servers, cloud and data centers is a very crowded space.

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