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Tuesday, 07 October 2008 03:08

Qualcomm promises truly pocketable computing" with Snapdragon

Snapdragon, Qualcomm's soon to be released mobile device chipset will be featured in the company's first every briefing in Australia for analysts and media on November 19.

Qualcomm, the pioneer of CDMA cellular, and a major supplier of chipsets to the global cellular industry, has had a long but very low profile presence in Australia. That will all change when Rob Hart, Qualcomm's country manager for Australia and New Zealand, John Stefanac, president of the Southeast Asia/Pacific region, and other senior Qualcomm executives "showcase more than 20 Qualcomm technology and product innovations, and for the first time demonstrate several of their new and innovative technologies in the Australian market," at the Sydney briefing.

In addition to Snapdragon these will include: Brew, Qualcomm's mobile handset platform for a wide range of applications, including games, music, ringtones, wallpaper and navigation and more; MediaFLO, a mobile TV application, which Qualcomm hopes will become a significant force in Australia when mobile TV is introduced and Firethorn, Qualcomm's mobile banking enabler.

Qualcomm announced plans for Snapdragon in November 2006 billing it as "a significant step toward realising the company's vision of universal mobility." It promised that Snapdragon would "add expanded functionality to future generations of consumer electronics - from gaming/portable entertainment devices to pocket computers and beyond - by delivering ubiquitous mobile broadband access, together with unsurpassed processing performance and battery life." It said that Samsung Electronics would be among the first device manufacturers to use Snapdragon.

At the core of Snapdragon is Qualcomm's Scorpion 1GHz microprocessor. It will be paired with a 128 bit single-instruction, multiple-data capability and Qualcomm's 600MHz digital signal processor to accelerate multimedia applications. Snapdragon, Qualcomm said, would support CDMA2000/EV-DO, WCDMA (UMTS )/HSDPA /HSUPA , broadcast television and multimedia, WiFi and Bluetooth.

Samples of the first Snapdragon chipsets, the QSD8250 and QSD8650, became available in November 2007. The QSD8250 supported HSPA data rates of up to 7.2Mbps on the downlink and 5.76Mbps on the uplink, with full backward compatibility. The dual-mode QSD8650 supported HSPA, as well as CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev B, with full backward compatibility.

At the CTIA Wireless 2008 in Las Vegas in April 2008, Qualcomm demonstrated prototypes of next-generation pocketable computing devices "with the type of form factor envisioned for the Snapdragon platform."

Since then iTWire has been unable to find any more recent reports about Snapdragon nor does Qualcomm appear to have announced when Snapdragon chipsets will ship in commercial quantities. However HTC has been reported as a possible user, and there is a video on YouTube of Qualcomm COO Sanjay Ja talking about Qualcomm's vision of producing a "truly pocketable computer" that will have sufficient battery power, thanks to its ultra-low power Snapdragon chipset, to operate for a whole day.

Another subject of the November 19 briefing, MediaFLO, is a complete technology platform for broadcasting multiple video (as well as audio and data) channels to handheld devices; initially, but not necessarily mobile phones.

Not only did Qualcomm develop the technology to a fully commercial system, it invested around $US800 million to build a US-wide MediaFLO network and created a subsidiary, MediaFLO USA to own and operate that network and to be the provider of services on it, setting up all the necessary relationships with content providers.

MediaFLO USA signed up the two largest cellular services providers in the US, Verizon and AT&T, to offer MediaFLO content services to their customers via new handsets (from LG and Samsung) that support the technology.

Qualcomm started out in 1985 providing contract research and development services, with limited product manufacturing, for the wireless telecommunications market. One of its first product offering was Omnitracs, a satellite tracking and navigation system for vehicle fleets and its involvement in Australia goes back to the early nineties when it tried to sell Omnitracs to Australia's domestic satellite operator, Aussat (now part of Optus). Trials were held but never progressed to a commercial service.

Then Qualcomm, through its Australian subsidiary Ozphone, bought cellular spectrum in the May 1998 auction and planned to launch a cellular service. However it abandoned those plans and in late 1999 sold the spectrum to AAPT, which still owns it.

Today, separate from the main Qualcomm business headed by Hart and located in Melbourne, there is another subsidiary, Qualcomm Australia, in Sydney, described as "a small development office, working on mobile phone authentication and security." It maintains a web page that "exists to make available software developed at Qualcomm Australia which is cryptographically interesting," but nothing seems to have been added to the page for several years.

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