What makes him powerful: In July 2005 Paul Jacobs took over as CEO of the technology firm founded by his father Irwin Jacobs, a wireless industry pioneer who championed CDMA technology in the 1990s when the cellular industry made the transition from analog to digital.
Jacobs has received a lot of scrutiny over the past three years because he is Irwin Jacobs' son but Jacobs is an innovator in his own right. He has been granted more than 25 patents for his inventions in wireless technology. He insists on being judged by his ability to implement successful business strategies and drive the financial success of the company. So far, he is succeeding.
Today, a large percentage of Qualcomm's revenues come from patent royalties and sales of its CDMA chips, but those patents are being challenged more than ever before and its massive growth is becoming much harder to replicate.
The company has been embroiled in some particularly contentious patent infringement battles with firms such as Broadcom and Nokia. Earlier this year Jacobs helped Qualcomm resolve its long-standing bitter patent disputes with Nokia. The two telecom giants announced they have entered into a new 15-year patent agreement that effectively settles all litigation between the companies, including the withdrawal by Nokia of its complaint to the European Commission and numerous lawsuits filed in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
But the firm's battles with Broadcom don't seem to be going away. Last year, the International Trade Commission issued a ban on sales of some cell phones using Qualcomm chips that it found to infringe on a Broadcom patent related to phone battery saving technology. Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated the ban, said hat the ITC did not have authority to issue a ban that affected cell phone makers and service providers that were not part of the original case between Qualcomm and Broadcom. This latest decision is a plus for Qualcomm but this dispute is far from over.
Jacob has no problem taking risks when it comes to business strategies. He spearheaded the BREW effort, a software platform for mobile phones that was used by Verizon Wireless and other operators.
He also fostered Qualcomm's work on MediaFLO, a nationwide mobile broadcast TV network that Qualcomm is spending $800 million to build. So far the gambit has paid off, both Verizon Wireless and AT&T are using the MediaFLO service and offering it to their subscribers. However, Jacobs has admitted that this foray into the broadcast mobile TV space has moved slower than Qualcomm wants.
Not all analysts agree with Jacob's strategies and many scoff at these initiatives but Qualcomm remains a powerhouse in the wireless industry-and that should never be underestimated.