The Ups and Downs of Bitboys, Now Known As Qualcomm Finland

San Diego’s mobile-chip giant Qualcomm (NYSE: QCOM) said it wanted to enhance its capabilities in the mobile-graphics space when it acquired Advanced Micro Devices’s (NYSE: AMD) hand-held chip division in January. As part of the AMD deal, Qualcomm also acquired Bitboys, a small company in Finland that specializes in making mobile phone graphics look good and run fast and smooth. But Bitboys also has an amazing and turbulent past, and their story has not been widely told before.

The company now known as Qualcomm Finland has two locations, in Espoo and in Noormarkku, a remote municipality near the Gulf of Bothnia, the northernmost part of the Baltic Sea, with a population of just 6,151. Noormarkku is the important site, though, because it is the hometown of Bitboys’ founding brothers Kaj Tuomi, 38, and Mika Tuomi, 36. Both brothers still work for Qualcomm Finland as product development engineers, along with approximately 50 other employees.

The Tuomi brothers founded Bitboys in 1991 with other young Finnish coders who wanted to push computer graphics’ accelerator technology to its limits. Such services were very much in demand, and so were the Bitboys. Infineon Technologies, a chipmaker that was then part of German electronics giant Siemens, became their partner and funded them toward the end of 1990’s.

But Bitboys’ hallowed status as “golden boys” began to tarnish after the company failed to deliver on a couple of major projects, triggering criticism in the worldwide computer graphics community. In 1998, Bitboys promised a revolutionary ‘wonder chip’ called Glaze 3D. All three versions turned out to be ‘vaporware’ that never … Next Page »

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