Why Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs Will Stifle the Smartwatch He Created

9/5/13Follow @bvbigelow

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that as Qualcomm’s chairman and CEO, he doesn’t get to oversee technology development projects. It was “kind of fun” to take on the smartwatch as his own pet project, he said.

Jacobs said the idea for a smartwatch struck him in much the same way that he realized in the late 1990s that mobile technologies were converging to make something like a smartphone inevitable. Jacobs said that epiphany came while he was sitting on a beach in Maui in 1997 or ’98, and he used his PDA to search Alta Vista for the nearest sushi restaurant. He said he realized it would only be a matter of time before those same capabilities would be incorporated into mobile phones.

But at that time, Jacobs added, people were just not ready for a higher plane of existence. Qualcomm tried to develop one of the first smartphones, he said. But in those days, consumers just wanted to use their mobile phones make phone calls.

In those years, Jacobs was the general manager overseeing Qualcomm’s handset manufacturing business (the company sold the business to Kyocera in 1999). He said the challenges of the handset business made him realize that Qualcomm was better situated to act as a technology innovator and catalyst for the entire wireless industry. “It was better for us to be an enabling technology manufacturer than to try to make phones,” said Jacobs. Handset design, he added, “is kind of a fashion industry” that requires a fundamentally different set of skills.

Qualcomm’s strength lies is in the complexities of wireless chip design, particularly in developing the hardware and software needed to integrate scores of different radio bands, encoding standards, and wireless carrier configurations.

If you read between the lines, Qualcomm’s chairman and CEO was providing some good reasons why the wireless technology giant won’t be expanding its smartwatch business much beyond its limited edition. Qualcomm doesn’t want to make smartwatches. It wants to supply its technology and components so the rest of the world can build their own smartwatches.

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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  • VladymirRogov

    “We’re trying to make it less about us, and more about what’s feasible”. Great American thinking… Cheers!