I’ve been thinking alot today about why Qualcomm seems to be missing huge opportunities in the wireless business. Sure it’s the world’s number one wireless chipmaker, but a couple of big things have happened in 2008 that have evolved so slowly it makes me wonder what Qualcomm’s overall business strategy is.
I’ll start with an announcement I came across today by Gigaom’s Stacey Higginbotham revealing that Samsung has decided to begin manufacturing its own WiMAX/LTE 4G chipsets. Samsung uses chips from Infineon, Broadcom and Qualcomm in its handsets currently. Qualcomm, as Higginbotham points out, owns a bunch of intellectual property around 3G CDMA, but little around either 4th generation standard. Samsung is manufacturing 4th generation chips to avoid paying royalty payments to the likes of Qualcomm. Of course 3G chips will be in use for a long time yet. LTE isn’t expected to begin rolling out until later in 2009 and while WiMAX is supposedly official, official January 6 there is currently a lawsuit threatening it. Nonetheless, one day 4G will be what 3G is now, and with its snails progress I wonder why Qualcomm seems to be behind the ball.
The other issue I’m finding concerning is Qualcomm’s lack of aggressiveness in getting its chips into netbooks. I think that in 2009 netbooks will blow the entire computer industry to smithereens. Just lately notebooks–both netbooks and laptops–eclipsed the sales numbers of desktop computers for the first time. I’m predicting that at some point in 2009, probably in the latter half, netbooks will be the top selling computer in any iteration. Intel’s Atom processor has been the reigning chip choice for most netbook manufacturers and right now, barring entrance by Qualcomm’s handset partners into the netbook industry, Qualcomm is in a tough place.
I’ve been impressed this year by Qualcomm’s work with Skyhook Wireless, but what is the company’s overall strategy for the next 5 years? 3G isn’t going to last forever.
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