SAN FRANCISCOQualcomm Inc.'s prominent place inside the hot consumer gadget of the momentthe first Android mobile phoneis a feather in the company's cap, but doesn't mean there won't be stiff competition from rival wireless chip vendors for design-ins on future handsets running the Google Inc.-backed operating system, according to analysts.
The first Android-powered handset, the G1, was introduced Tuesday (Sept. 24) in New York by T-Mobile USA. The handset is manufactured by Taiwan's HTC Corp. and features Qualcomm's dual-core MSM7201A semiconductor with integrated processing, multimedia, graphics capabilities and multi-mode 3G mobile broadband connectivity.
"I think it gives them consumer mindset. A lot of people are going to associate Android with Qualcomm and with HTC," said Will Strauss, principal researcher at Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.) "It's certainly going to give them 20 feet in front of the next guy, but that can only hold off the competition for a certain amount of time."
The Open Handset Alliance
the group of companies created to develop and promote Android as an open Linux-based alternative to proprietary operating systems for mobile devicesincludes Qualcomm as well as rivals such as Texas Instruments Inc., Broadcom Corp. and Marvell Semiconductor Inc.
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, a number of vendors showed off Android-based prototype handsets, including Qualcomm, TI and Marvell. STMicroelectronics showed off its Nomadik multimedia application processor, the STn8815, ported to various operating systems, including Android.
"Being in the first phone with that operating system is an advantage," said Allen Nogee, principal analyst at In-Stat. "The integration with the operating system is the tough part, and it shows that they've got that worked out." He added that it doesn't mean there won't be other Android handsets that incorporate chips from Qualcomm's rivals.
"It certainly doesn't mean [Qualcomm] will be the only chip supplier to Android handsets," said Tina Teng, an analyst with iSuppli Corp. "I don't think that is what Google would want, either."
Analysts said it was no surprise that Qualcomm's chip was designed into an HTC handset given the longstanding collaboration between the companies. Strauss noted that Qualcomm is an equity investor in HTC (Qualcomm announced a minority equity investment in the company in 2001).
"We certainly have first mover advantage," said Jason Bremner, senior director of Qualcomm's cellular products group, of being in the first Android phone. Bremner added that Qualcomm has been working with Google for two years on Android but, noting the presence of competitors within the alliance, added, "It certainly isn't an exclusive relationship."