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Qualcomm to sink €100m into European SMEs

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Qualcomm is to sink €100m into small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe. The company has pledged the investment via its venture capital arm Qualcomm Ventures. So which technologies might be best placed to grab a share of Qualcomm's big pie?

Qualcomm certainly knows something about technology. Thirty-five per cent of its income is from licensing intellectual property, and employees get a couple of grand for every patent they add to its already-impressive list.

The company also spends a lot of time evaluating technologies and laying bets on what customers are going to want embedded in silicon a few years down the line.

Qualcomm chief operating officer and president of the QCT (Qualcomm CDMA Technologies) division Sanjay Jha gives WiMAX a pretty short shift: "WiMAX has no handoff and no latency control. It's based on a cable standard [DOCSIS] and was never designed for wireless".

Unsurprisingly, Sanjay sees CDMA and W-CDMA everywhere, with little need for other radio standards.

We don't need no UWB

Femtocells are what's needed to allow W-CDMA to take on UWB, Wi-Fi and any other radio technology, and they're coming. Qualcomm can demonstrate a domestic femtocell taking a high-definition video stream from a phone handset to a TV, while simultaneously handling a VoIP call for good measure, which does beg the question: why bother with all those other radio standards?

According to Qualcomm, 80 per cent of Wi-Fi-enabled handsets never have their Wi-Fi capability used, which represents an enormous waste of money when W-CDMA could fulfil the same role if the network operators would let it.

Why stop at mobile gaming?

Even more outlandish are Qualcomm's plans for mobile-phone gaming, with demonstrations of Dance-Revolution-like mats and TV connections from handsets. The company sees mobile phone gaming taking on the Playstation and XBox markets.

When a mobile phone can stream HD TV, and play 3D games, Qualcomm can't see why you'd want any other electronics in your house.

Being fab-less isn't always fab

Qualcomm famously owns only very limited fabrication facilities, preferring to outsource its production to third-parties - but as the industry moves to smaller and smaller hardware, the investment needed is starting to limit the competition in fabrication.

The move to 45nm and the next jump to 32nm are so expensive that industry consolidation is expected, which could mean less competitors for Qualcomm to negotiate with.

So anyone looking to grab some of the $100m should look at new applications for W-CDMA; exploiting femtocell deployments and integrating the mobile phone into consumers', largely stationary, lives as well as anything which might make nano-scale manufacturing easier. ®

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