From the chipset upwards

Qualcomm announced yesterday that it was sampling its most advanced chipset to-date, the dual-CPU MSM7500. This integrated chipset platform uses both an ARM 9 processor (for the modem) and an ARM 11 (applications processor) to support a range of multimedia applications. The dual processors enable it to connect to CDMA 1x EV-DO networks for high speed data downloads and still handle an 8 megapixel camera interface, ‘camcorder-quality’ video recording, mobile broadcast technologies and, of course, all major audio and video playback formats. Qualcomm also claims it will be capable of supporting VGA resolution gaming.

The San Diego-based technology company has built its business on offering tightly integrated solutions, spanning everything from the chipset to a virtual ecosystem of content partners. As operators seek to stimulate demand and generate revenue from ever more advanced services, this integrated approach can in theory enable Qualcomm to reduce time-to-market and support a more cohesive overall experience.

MSM7500 is closely aligned with Qualcomm’s BREW applications platform and MediaFLO broadcast technologies. While the company will no doubt support other options over time, it is clearly giving preference to its homegrown technologies and encouraging handset and operator partners to take advantage of this pre-integration and the associated benefits of reduced development time and lower costs.

The relative technical merits of this platform could be debated ad infinitum, but what’s interesting about this announcement is that it represents a particular approach to the market. Qualcomm has made great strides in the last 18 months to pull together all of its disparate expertise into a cohesive offering for mobile multimedia. At the front-end, it acquired Trigenix to provide user interface customisation as part of BREW; in chipsets it has been working to pre-integrate as much of the platform as possible and it’s third party developer programme now provides access to a wide range of content and applications. This same approach is being applied in the emerging field of mobile broadcast, where its MediaFLO subsidary is seeking to catalyse the market by taking a lead on everything from network deployment to chipset development and media partnerships.

This contrasts with the committee-based, ‘open’ development process espoused by other vendors. Of course, this opens a whole new argument about what we actually mean by the term ‘open’ – Qualcomm would no doubt insist its platforms are open – but there is still a perception in the market that working with Qualcomm means accepting a lesser role in the overall direction of the platform in favour of decisive action driven by a singular vision for the evolution of the mobile experience.

Pertti Johansson, President of Qualcomm Europe, will be speaking at MEX to share his views on this and other subjects in the opening conference session: ‘Redefining the mobile user experience‘. He will be joined by Juha Christensen, one of the founding visionaries at Symbian, former head of Microsoft’s mobile business, President of Macromedia Mobile and now CEO of a new start-up – Sonopia. Also on the panel will be Don Levy, President of SKY and Yves Christol, Head of Device Requirements at Orange.

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