Qualcomm Then and Now—Will the Next 25 Be as Innovative as the Last 25?

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getting a smaller share, albeit of a bigger pie. Then there is the continued pressure on royalty payments. And some of its bigger bets—MediaFlo (mobile TV), Firethorn (mobile banking), for example—might not work out. The machine-to-machine market is one of the major opportunities in wireless over the next several years—it represents a significant opportunity for Qualcomm. But the firm is going to have to adapt its business model and learn how to play in a very fragmented market if it is going to be successful in M2M.

Yan Hui, Founder and CEO, San Diego-based AirHop Communications.

Yan Hui: Three things come to my mind in explaining Qualcomm’s success since 1985: 1) Their technology vision, 2) Their business vision, and 3) Their willingness to adjust to market change.

“On their technology vision, CDMA existed before Qualcomm, but they were able to take that technology from mostly academia to commercial. Not only that, they created a whole new generation of wireless network [infrastructure] from that vision, with a lot of technology innovation along the way. On their business vision, Qualcomm’s business innovation played an equally important role, if not more, as technology innovation. Qualcomm created the new IP licensing model, which helped them financially to beat the competition. On their willingness to change, CDMA was a huge success. But along the way, they have tried other things, and some failed. But they know it is important to adjust to the market and they have been really quickly in adjustment compared to some well-established companies.”

YH: On the next 25 years: “The wireless industry has entered a new era thanks to the iPhone, which ushered us from a ‘no killer-app’ period into an age of bandwidth shortage. Our industry started realizing that 20 years worth of wireless research becomes insignificant in front of the data tsunami that today’s wireless network is not capable of handling. Another powerful trend is the convergence of content providers and operators. As such, it creates a huge opportunity for innovation in both technology and business models. Given its roots, Qualcomm is in a unique position to become the leader in this new mobile Internet era. They have invested in a number of ‘new’ areas such as mobile application processor, display, and femtocell chip. It will be interesting to see how they will be able to win in these areas.”

Hiep Pham, founding CEO of TipCity and Widcomm (acquired by Broadcom in 2004).

Hiep Pham: Qualcomm has made incredible progress over the last 25 years. The company was based on the core technology for wireless, then products (devices and networks), then solutions and applications. The ownership of core … 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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