Scenes from the Uplinq Conference: How Qualcomm’s Strategy is Playing Out

If there was a single moment during Qualcomm’s mobile developer conference last week that showed just how much the San Diego wireless giant has changed over the past decade, it would have to be when Qualcomm chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs introduced Nokia CEO Stephen Elop as a keynote speaker.

“Up next is somebody that you probably wouldn’t have expected to see at a Qualcomm event,” Jacobs told the Uplinq attendees Thursday. “It was just a few short years ago that Nokia and Qualcomm were beating each other’s brains out in the court of law.”

Once Elop took the stage, though, it became clear that the former head of Microsoft’s business division has been working with Qualcomm since Sept. 21, when Elop took the top job at Nokia. He told the Uplinq audience he met with Jacobs for the first time that same day, and recalled how Jacobs told him that Nokia was “a bit of an enigma” and gave him a list of 10 things that Nokia needed to change. Among the top action items, Elop said, was that Nokia needed to “open up—open up to partners, customers, and developers.”

Because of Qualcomm’s continuing support of Nokia, Elop said, the Finnish cell phone maker will release its first Windows-based devices this year. From there, Elop launched into the heart of his presentation, about the industry’s “fundamental shift from a battle of devices to a war of wireless ecosystems,” chiefly involving the Apple iOS, Google Android, and Windows phone axes of power.

Whoever wins, Qualcomm’s strategy has become clear. The world’s largest wireless chipmaker wants to cast itself as a universal hardware developer and core technology enabler for all mobile ecosystems. And this was the underlying theme that Qualcomm and Jacobs returned to again and again throughout the two-day conference.

The wireless giant says its Snapdragon chips are the designated drivers in 120 smartphone and tablets, with another 250 Snapdragon-powered devices in development. To bring this about, Qualcomm has formed long-term relationships with wireless operators, device makers, software developers, service companies, and others throughout the mobile industry.

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs

The company’s technology is now used with Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, webOS, Brew MP, and Chrome—and Qualcomm’s influence at Apple appears to be growing. Qualcomm says it will release an augmented reality software development kit for iOS developers next month, and Apple is reportedly moving to include Qualcomm chips in its next-generation iPhone and iPad.

At its developer conference, Qualcomm’s prime directive was clearly to encourage software engineers to get creative in their development of games and entertaining content for mobile devices. Take, for example, the partnership that Qualcomm forged with Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency in February to launch Creative Mobile Labs (CML), which Jacobs described as … 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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