Thursday, June 25, 2009

Intel/Nokia tie-up - what does it mean for Qualcomm and connected devices?

The news that Nokia and Intel have teamed up to “define a new mobile platform beyond today’s smartphones, notebooks and netbooks” raises interesting questions about who the winners will be in the brave new all-IP world that is LTE. Or, more pertinently, what will this mean for the previous goliath of mobile chipsets and licencing - Qualcomm?

In May, Qualcomm 'launched' a new category of device (if you can launch a category) called the "Smartbook". Ostensibly, this is “the smartphone experience in a larger form factor” and based on QCOM's Snapdragon chipset, which apparently "as a single chip solution combining GPS, multimedia, the processor, wifi and 3G on one chip, promises to make smartbooks lighter, thinner, cheaper and give them a longer battery life". The thing is, I'm not entirely convinced by this form factor... indeed, the clue is in QCOM's own description ... it's larger than a smartphone but does the same stuff. Well, that's a winner.

The Intel/Nokia tie up in many ways looks to the same inspiration, but with a difference. Intel knows how to make computing devices; Nokia knows how to make mobile phones. Crucially, they are talking about the devices being "pocketable" (and hopefully they're not working on the assumption that everyone in 2010 is going to be wearing baggy cargo pants!). The details are still vague but there are a few things that the tie-up suggests:

First, it's a real shot in the arm for mobile Linux and other open source projects. Potentially, it's not good news for Symbian, although you could argue that it's already given up the fight now that it has also gone the route of reinventing itself as the Symbian Foundation.

Furthermore, the implications go further than this deal because of Intel's acquisition of Wind River earlier this month. This really could be the beginning of something big in the broader connected devices market. As we're already seeing with devices such as TomTom embedding connectivity into them, more and more consumer electronics devices are being connected. This isn't about Smartphone functionality in a device as big as book, it's about taking devices we already use and connecting them to new services and creating new revenue streams for operators. The combination of Intel, Wind River and Nokia is potentially a powerful one here especially.

At the moment, the deal gives Intel an HSPA 3G licence but continue the line of thought and the Intel/Nokia tie-up is bad news for Qualcomm. The new mobile platform that it creates goes far beyond netbook and smartbooks. It potentially sets the scene for a much bigger play in the wider consumer electronics market, leaving Snapdragon on the sidelines.

So it's just struck me, substitute Snapdragon for Puff the magic dragon in the well known ditty, and you get a sense of what the future may hold:

Qualcomm, the snapdragon lived by the sea*
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee,
Qualcomm, the snapdragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, jackie paper came no more
And snap that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

And all together now ...

* [Ed note: San Diego is by the sea, so it works!]

No comments: