Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Qualcomm: beyond the cellphone

Qualcomm has pulled the plug on FLO TV, its attempt at terrestrial broadcasting to cellphone (later dedicated device owners). It sold the spectrum to AT&T (so that LTE iPhones will have better Internet access than the 3G phones have today) and is refunding the purchase price paid by buyers.

I’m not sure what it means for Qualcomm’s future, but I offer some thoughts on my San Diego Telecom blog. Certainly it hurts its batting average under its second CEO, Paul Jacobs, son of the original CEO Irwin Jacobs.

On the other hand, Intel has been through multiple CEOs since its founding, and basically makes all its money from the 1980 decision to source IBM’s PC cpu and then later to pull out of DRAMs. So while Intel is un-sexy and no longer is seen as a growth company, it’s not in trouble, desperate or in danger of going away any time soon.

In some ways, it suggests second acts are very hard to pull off. Intel Microsoft and Motorola moved beyond their original products to another cash cow, but Oracle and SAP have not. (eBay may eventually make more money off of PayPal than auctions, so it’s too soon to call that one.) RCA and the original AT&T were once technological powerhouses that eventually died. Once-great pharma companies are also in great trouble nowadays.

Of tech companies, Apple and IBM have pulled off multiple re-inventions, but is there anyone else in that league? Google might get there someday, but they’re not there yet.

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