As Wireless Industry Moves From Voice to Data, Qualcomm’s Top Execs Discuss Their ‘Big Bets’ on Next-Generation Technologies

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs seemed upbeat, at times even jocular, during a town hall forum at the wireless giant’s corporate headquarters Wednesday night. Perhaps his good humor stemmed from the kickoff question from moderator Brian Modoff, the Deutsche Bank Securities analyst, who asked Jacobs how he views Qualcomm now that the company has entered a relatively peaceful era following years of intense litigation against Broadcom, Nokia, and others.

“I look forward to hanging out with engineers more and the lawyers less,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs, who has a doctorate in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley, talked like he’s already hanging with the engineers. He highlighted Qualcomm’s plans in China, the convergence of smartphones and “smartbook” computers, networks getting to very high data rates, and the “big bets” Qualcomm has placed on future technologies. Jacobs said those big bets include Snapdragon, the family of ARM-based (Advanced RISC Machine) microprocessors that Qualcomm developed for use in smartphones and other mobile computing devices.

Also on stage was Len Lauer, the company’s chief operating officer, and Steve Mollenkopf, president of QCT (Qualcomm CDMA Technologies), which ranks as the world’s largest provider of wireless chipsets and software solutions. As the wireless industry moves increasingly from voice to data, Lauer said Qualcomm is pursuing new business opportunities in social networking, Internet video, games, mobile commerce, and machine-to-machine communications.

One key to Qualcomm’s ability to differentiate itself at a time of anticipated consolidations, Mollenkopf said, is its ability to be a wireless systems provider. Another key trend that provides Qualcomm the opportunity to differentiate itself, Mollenkopf said, is the increasing integration of digital media and other consumer electronics features in cellular phones.

The Qualcomm executives said they expect 4G wireless technologies to take a number of years to gain market penetration. After the requisite data cards become available, which is expected next year, 4G handsets will become available in 2011, and it will likely take six to eight years for sales of 4G phones to reach 50 million units.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm plans to emphasize what it calls … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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