As Browsing Becomes the “Killer Use” in Mobile, Qualcomm Makes Web Technology a Priority

9/13/11Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego-based Qualcomm has traditionally been known as the world’s biggest maker of mobile phone chips—with most of that technology coming out of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, the company’s “QCT” division.

But Qualcomm crossed a kind of tipping point three years ago, when the software engineers at QCT began to outnumber the hardware engineers, according to Sayeed “Sy” Choudhury, a QCT director of product management. With wireless access accounting for an increasing share of Internet use, Qualcomm’s growing contingent of software developers has likewise expanded to tackle different facets of the wireless Web. “Some of these folks work on device drivers, others on enabling graphics, multimedia, telephony, data connectivity, the various [operating systems] platforms,” Choudhury says.

Web technology development, in particular, has become an increasingly important focus of the work done at Qualcomm’s San Diego headquarters, as well as at company outposts in Toronto, Raleigh, NC, and Haifa, Israel.

The overarching goal is to deliver what Choudhury likes to call “best-in-class browsing”—by optimizing the browser to work faster and better over a wireless connection. Qualcomm has organized this effort by distributing different blocks of work, so development of the software engine that executes Javascript code is done in San Diego, along with the way a Web page gets laid out in memory. Coding for the way the different components of a Web page get downloaded is handled in Haifa, and the software needed to render everything to the display screen is done in both Raleigh and Toronto.

Sy Choudhury

“Part of the reason we distributed the team was simply a hiring strategy, so there are enough skilled workers to grow these areas of competence in parallel.” Choudhury says. The goal with each functional block is to take the Android OS and Windows Phone operating system, and find ways to optimize key operations. Qualcomm then takes its chipsets, with the optimized code embedded in the operating system, and hands the lot over to its mobile device partners—the mobile phone manufacturers like Kyocera, HTC, Motorola, Sharp, Sanyo, LG, and Samsung. “Every three to four months, when there is an update for the operating system, Android for example, it’s necessary to go back again to make sure that each part is still optimized,” says Choudhury. He offered three examples:

—To take advantage of graphics processing unit (GPU) capabilities, Qualcomm’s software developers created a two-step process that chops a Web page into sub blocks, which can be stored in a device’s memory. As a result, the device can … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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