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Qualcomm CEO holds on to mobile TV dreams

Posted: 03 Dec 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Paul Jacobs? mobile TV? network?

Despite the failure of Qualcomm's MediaFlo service for mobile TV, Paul Jacobs, CEO, Qualcomm, remains bullish about it. In an on-stage discussion with Jon Rubinstein, Jacobs also expressed optimism about the future of mobile payments and health care.

Jacobs cradled his head in his hands in mock agony over an audience question about mobile TV. Last July, Jacobs had said Qualcomm may try to sell in the next twelve months its MediaFlo business which had attracted less than a million subscribers.

"I still believe strongly in mobile TV," said Jacobs. "On a tablet it's pretty compelling--it's just a question of exactly how it will happen and with which technology," he said.

Qualcomm prototyped systems using carrier's cellular spectrum as well as the separate parallel network used in the MediaFlo approach the company adopted. "We are continuing to push both ways," he said, noting that carriers are extending fibre links to base stations reviving hopes for in-band video approaches.

Jacobs chalked the MediaFlo failure down to relatively high costs and the lack of killer content such as NFL football games. "What's important is to have the live events live and everything else cached for access on demand," he said.

Jacobs was most passionate about the opportunities in mobile health care which he said will first emerge in rural services in emerging markets. "It will be a very efficient way to manage health care, and there are already projects underway to do it," he said.

To date, Qualcomm has been in trials of mobile monitoring of both cardiac and diabetes patients. "Chronic diseases represent three-quarters of health care spending, so if we can improve that, it's big win," he said.

Both Rubinstein and Jacobs were bullish on the rise of mobile payment services and NFC. In a video of their discussion, Rubinstein--who helped develop the Palm Pre and Apple iPod--said NFC is coming and eventually will enable handsets to replace wallets and credit cards.

In a second video, Jacobs sketched out his vision of new mobile applications coming in five years in health care, education and automated translation.

In a convivial hour-long discussion both executives agreed it's still early days for mobile systems with new concepts such as tablets just beginning to gain traction.

"We are right at the infancy of this space, going through a major transition from personal computing to mobile devices," said Rubinstein. "We will see a wide variety of mobile devices, and they will all be connected together and to the cloud with unified services," he said.

In a final video, both shared thoughts about the rise of tablets and other form factors. Jacobs said Qualcomm is "working on a low power wireless technology that will compete with Bluetooth and fit into hearing-aid sized devices."

Jacobs also predicted there will be no major shakeout of smart phone platforms in the near future. "Over to the next five years, we will still have a wide diversity of operating systems because I don�t see a forcing function unless it is the carriers who always want to have fewer SKUs," he said.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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