HONG KONG Qualcomm Inc laid the ground work for a technology smack down with Intel Corp on Tuesday, saying it would use the recent acquisition of Airgo Networks to invade the connectivity space for laptop PCs and other non-phone portable devices. It also floated another taunt by suggesting its 1GHz Snapdragon platform would be a real nuisance to the PC microprocessor giant.
"Laptop computing is not a niche for us. It is a big and growing area. We not only look at laptops, but sub-notebooks, ultra mobile PCs, Smartphones, wireless PDAs that whole category of devices where Intel plays today is a great opportunity for us," said Luis Pineda, senior vice president of marketing and product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies.
Pineda made the comments on the sidelines of Telecom World 2006, an International Telecommunications Union event that happens every four years.
Qualcomm (San Diego) said Monday that it would acquire privately-owned Airgo (Palo Alto, Calif.), a pioneer and patents right owner of MIMO technology for the high data rate 802.11n Wi-Fi chips to be used in both WLAN access points and PCs. Qualcomm said it would integrate Airgo's 802.11a/b/g and 802.11n technology into some of its own Mobile Station Modem chipsets and that it would use Airgo's technology for chipsets on the new Snapdragon broadband wireless platform.
Snapdragon is an open development platform for wideband CDMA, CDMA 2000 and HSDPA/HSUPA. It comprises a 1-GHz control processor called Scorpion, and a 600-MHz DSP. Qualcomm expects Snapdragon to form the basis of multiple phone and gaming platforms, based on support for additional networking features such as MediaFlo, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
Intel has already made moves to integrate cellular technology with its popular Centrino Wi-Fi technology. In September, Nokia developed an HSDPA module for notebook computers that Intel will offer as an optional bundle with its next-generation Centrino Duo platform. Eventually, WiMax will be added to the platform as well.
Pineda said Qualcomm will challenge Intel with its own 3G/Wi-Fi modems, and then look for additional momentum in non-PC platforms through Scorpion. "We look to penetrate the laptop market more and more going forward and not just with wireless capability, but even in the microprocessor space. Today we already have business with PC cards, and also embedded in laptops," he said, adding that Lenovo is a major customer.
Qualcomm also plans to maintain Airgo's early mover status in the access point market for 802.11n, and will develop additional discrete chipsets, Pineda said. On Sunday, Qualcomm trotted out Airgo's first Draft 2.0 compliant 802.11n chipset, the AGN400, which leverages Airgo's patented work in smart antenna technology to extend range and improve throughput.
Even though much of Airgo's innovation has been on the access point, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said Airgo technology would also be pivotal in expanding the appeal of its mobile phone chipsets. "We have always looked at Wi-Fi as something that would be integrated into the phone eventually, for offloading (files) or as a way to participate in a home multimedia network," he said.
Although clearly not a fan of WiMAX, Jacobs said the company was still open to using it if deployments gain momentum in the market during the next few years. "Maybe we would do it by means of an acquisition; maybe by means of a partnership; or maybe by means of internal development. But right now it is not our highest priority because we just don't believe that the technology is that good," he said.
In the first half of 2007, Jacobs said Qualcomm will introduce its Ultra Mobile Broadband, which he said will exceed the throughput of WiMAX and have better coverage.