Qualcomm's next CEO drops glitz for substance during first major Q&A

LAS VEGAS--In some of his first public comments since agreeing to become Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) next CEO, Steve Mollenkopf offered a largely upbeat and positive outlook on the chip vendor's business and prospects. Specifically, Mollenkopf said Qualcomm plans to expand its businesses in tablets, connected cars and in China, and hinted the company is hoping to release multiple market-changing technologies in the years ahead.

Steve Mollenkopf

Mollenkopf anchored a 40-minute question-and-answer session with members of the press here at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. Eschewing the sometimes elaborate and complex keynote productions that outgoing Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs seemed to favor, Mollenkopf instead offered a brief and largely impromptu overview of Qualcomm's CES announcements and its position in the industry, and then fielded questions ranging from the Chinese government's investigation into Qualcomm's business there to the company's position on Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows RT operating system.

Indeed, Mollenkopf didn't even use PowerPoint slides, a refreshing tact when compared with the often bombastic and cacophonous media presentations most companies rely on here at CES.

Qualcomm announced in December Mollenkopf would replace Jacobs in March.

During his remarks, Mollenkopf said Qualcomm is looking forward to continued growth in the smartphone market, largely driven by the widespread deployment of LTE network technology. He also said Qualcomm expects to benefit from the expansion of mobile technologies into a wide array of other devices, including wearable computing gadgets like smart watches and glasses. "It's going to be a really exciting time," he promised.

In addressing a question about Qualcomm's relatively sluggish performance in the tablet market when compared with the smartphone market, Mollenkopf acknowledged the company "hasn't been in the design wins." However, he said the company expects to increase its share of the tablet market, and pointed to the recent Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire HDX and the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus 7 as two recent tablets powered by the company's silicon. "We see the tablet business as very important to us moving forward."

As for the Chinese government's investigation into Qualcomm, which is probing possible violations of the country's anti-monopoly rules, Mollenkopf said he didn't have any additional updates to share on the topic. (Qualcomm has said it is participating in the investigation and is not aware of any violations of the law.) Mollenkopf did explain that Qualcomm offers "a very friendly business model to China," noting that the company's technology helps its Chinese partners expand their business beyond the country. "It's been a good model to drive the domestic Chinese business." He also said Qualcomm expects to increase its business in China as carriers there launch LTE networks.

Mollenkopf largely sidestepped a question about Qualcomm's support for Microsoft's much-criticized Windows RT platform. Qualcomm was an early supporter of Windows RT, seeing it as a way to loosen Intel's grip on the PC computing market. However, sales of Windows RT products, which run on ARM-based chips, have stalled in the market. Mollenkopf said Qualcomm continues to believe that the Windows ecosystem overall will be successful, and noted that users are increasingly shifting their computing needs to tablets.

In addressing a question about Qualcomm's position in the connected car market, Mollenkopf said the company has already sold a wide range of silicon products into the automotive segment and he expects the company to continue along that track. "If you look at our position in the automotive industry, it's already very strong."

Mollenkopf also said that the current focus in the automotive industry is connecting the car to the Internet, but in the future he said the focus will shift to connecting cars to each other and to other objects.

Finally, Mollenkopf touched on recent articles focusing on Qualcomm's work into biological computing, which uses the structure of the human brain to create new ways to crunch data. "We haven't changed the fundamental process of computing for a long, long time," he said. "That's what this product is about."

However, Mollenkopf cautioned that biological computing products are in their infancy and "there's still a lot of work to do."

Mollenkopf made only a brief mention of Qualcomm's various announcements here at CES. The company announced:

  • The commercial availability of its AllPlay smart media platform, which the company said is a "wireless whole-home audio solution developed by Qualcomm Connected Experiences, Inc., incorporating Qualcomm Atheros wireless technologies."
  • The release of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 802 processor, which the company said is the " first fully integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) designed for next-generation smart TVs, smart set-top boxes and smart digital media adapters."
  • The introduction of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 602A applications processor for automotive applications.
  • The Internet Processor for smart home services.

For more:
- check out these four Qualcomm releases

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