The wireless technology world is upside down today. Shares of Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS) plunged 10.5% overnight. RF Micro Devices (UNKNOWN:RFMD.DL) dropped 11%. TriQuint Semiconductor (UNKNOWN:TQNT.DL) walked away with a smaller but still painful 5% haircut.
These wireless radio chip specialists usually plunge en masse when one of the major handset designers reports terrible sales. They also jump and drop in bunches when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) or Samsung replace one vendor's chip with another's in the next wave of guaranteed blockbuster phones.
But Apple didn't have a new iPhone or iPad ripped apart for analysis last night. Samsung's Galaxy S IV reveal is still a couple of weeks away, and the rumor mill isn't spilling a whole lot of beans on what to expect. None of these market-moving consumer product designers shared any sales numbers recently, nor are analysts weighing in with market estimates at the moment.
No, you can't blame this sectorwide panic on Cupertino or Seoul. The catalyst for these downward moves comes from a former ally.
Mobile chip giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) just introduced a brand-new chipset that handles a plethora of wireless data standards, from aging 2G technologies to bleeding-edge 4G LTE. The product incorporates front-end signal processing, power management, and radio band tuning. Qualcomm's central processors have traditionally shipped with Skyworks and RF Micro modules to handle these tasks, which is why these stocks plunged faster than others on the news of Qualcomm taking control of many tasks.
So the next time Samsung goes looking for a complete radio solution, Qualcomm can pretty much do it all. Early guesses have indicated that a Qualcomm chip might power the next Galaxy, rather than Samsung's own chip designs you'll find in previous models. Qualcomm's new radio package is probably too new to make it into this particular product, but investors are looking a couple of generations down the road today.