Qualcomm confident of bright future for mobiles

Despite the threat of technologies such as WiMax, Qualcomm's chief executive believes the mobile industry has little to fear

Paul Jacobs, chief executive of chipmaker and 3G IP giant Qualcomm, has revealed he believes the mobile industry has little to fear from IT, despite the advent of disruptive technologies such as VoIP and WiMax.

The phone, according to Jacobs, is the future of computing for developing nations. "It's the only computer most people will ever have. It's a darn powerful computer," he said. "It's incredible the capabilities that are going into the phones because of Moore's Law."

Current mobiles, he said, are gaining ground fast on their PC counterparts: "It's like a 1996 computer. The only thing that's missing is a large keyboard and large display and that's coming... it shows how disruptive the phone can be to the computing industry."

But the disruptive traffic is not all one way. Should the likes of WiMax take off and become the wireless connectivity standard du jour, as some industry watchers predict, 3G patent owner Qualcomm will be out-of-date in a cell-free world.

Qualcomm's chief executive, however, is banking on 4G being a multi-radio future where information is carried over whichever radio is the most appropriate at the time — a future that would give 3G a longer shelf life.

According to Jacobs, 3G shipments will beat 2G by 2009, although he's already sounding the death knell of what was once considered the Great White Hope of third-generation services. "I was never a huge believer in video telephony," he said.

Other next-big-thing technologies get a warmer reception from Jacobs: "I think the future will be social networking." He added that services which allow mobile users to find individuals in their buddy group or social network who are physically nearby, using GPS, for example, will be big.

Jacobs also predicts a greater blurring of the line between consumer devices and phones as manufacturers obliterate wires in favour of docking devices with Wi-Fi or cellular connections — not necessarily a smooth transition.

He said: "There's the question of how to wirelessly enable consumer electronics. You don't just slap a modem on it."