Qualcomm turns on, tunes in and zooms out

CEO Jacobs emphasizes the increasingly open nature of BREW


By Jason Ankeny

Qualcomm grabbed the spotlight at its 8th annual BREW development conference to champion a vision for the wireless industry that expands beyond voice services into new business models, service offerings and markets. According to Qualcomm Internet Services Senior Vice President and General Manager of BREW Bob Briggs, the theme of BREW 2008--the ubiquitous "Zoom Out"--heralds the company's belief that widening its reach to embrace a more open and flexible approach promises to optimize growth throughout the mobile value chain. This point was reiterated time and again in subsequent appearances by CEO Paul Jacobs and Executive Vice President and Group President Len Lauer.    

Jacobs' keynote touted the concept of convergence, outlining a future in which Qualcomm's core technologies enable connected services in all kinds of consumer electronics and personal devices, not just mobile handsets. "It's no longer good enough to have a browser on the phone--we need to take advantage of things inherent in the wireless network," Jacobs said. "The Kindle [Amazon's e-book reader product] is a great example of a focused device and service that uses mobile to change the way people behave. It doesn't look like a phone, and users don't sign up for a mobile service." Jacobs cited televisions and DVD players as everyday household products that could benefit enormously from the addition of connectivity, and said Qualcomm plans to begin preloading some BREW applications on electronic devices at the point of retail release.

Another takeaway from Jacobs' keynote is Qualcomm's increasing emphasis on opening its platform to enable developers greater control over the commercial fate of their applications. He said the continuing evolution of the BREW Client will allow developers to reduce their time to market with distribution across multiple networks and devices. "The further we open BREW, the more we give developers more direct control over merchandizing their content through as many channels as possible," Jacobs said. "As we continue to open BREW, we will enable improved purchase and discovery of applications, more control over retail pricing, and enable developers to offer their applications direct to consumers. It sounds like off-portal, but we're talking about delivering the application through the operator's BREW platform. It should bring a lot of interesting opportunities to the ecosystem."

Lauer meanwhile addressed Qualcomm's horizontal capabilities and their role in expanding the scope of application development. He pointed to tent-pole services including mobile commerce, content delivery, broadcast media, location and presence, and advertising and presence as increasingly vital components of the mobile user experience. Lauer outlined a hypothetical scenario whereby he could be shopping in a Nordstrom's department store: Thanks to presence and geotagging features, his phone could receive coupons or discounts based on past Nordstrom's purchases, get recommendations according to his consumer profile and make payments via credit cards or retailer loyalty card programs.  

Lauer also spotlighted Qualcomm's MediaFLO mobile broadcast technology. In recent weeks, the firm introduced a new in-vehicle mobile TV service, and Lauer said Qualcomm will continue to explore similar opportunities, including consumer electronics. "Why not mobile TV as an additional feature or differentiator?" he asked. The conventional MediaFLO mobile TV platform is also poised for growth: Lauer said new channels will roll out later this year, and Qualcomm is also exploring original content production from both professional and user-generated sources.