Mobile: Is U.S. Leading in Innovation?

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Where’s mobile headed? Paul Jacobs, CEO of mobile phone chipset giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), gave his company’s perspective here at the AlwaysOn Summit today.

And for the U.S., it’s good news.

Though Europe and Asia are generally considered to be leading the world in mobile adoption, Qualcomm’s CEO said the U.S. is starting to change that view, particularly as a center for innovation.

“Look at what’s coming out for mobile data, mobile TV and where we are right now, the epicenter of high-level OS development for mobile devices,” he said. “That’s a pretty good sign we’re leading.”

The mobile OS side would include the iPhone and Android — development for which is led by companies based not far from the Stanford University campus where the Summit is taking place.

“There are sophisticated devices coming from overseas, but I would say the most excitement is what’s coming out of North America,” Jacobs added.

He talked briefly about Qualcomm’s vision for the emergence of what he described as “smartbook” devices — netbook-sized PCs with ten-inch displays and smartphone capabilities built-in.

“It works with what is on the Internet,” Jacobs said of the concept. “It’s a device you carry with you that doesn’t need a lot of storage.”

He pointed to the growth in cloud-based services, including Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) plans to evolve its Chrome browser into a full-fledged operating system that would support browser-based apps, and Microsoft’s plans to offer a cloud version of its Office suite.

“Cloud computing with wireless is an important trend,” he said.

It’s also one that Qualcomm hopes to cash in on. At its Web site, Qualcomm describes upcoming smartbook devices based on its ARM-based Snapdragon mobile chipset, which will weigh less than two pounds and feature all-day battery life, while delivering high-performance computing experiences.

According to Qualcomm, such devices are coming from partners in multiple form factors this fall.

New business models

Qualcomm’s partners aren’t the only ones. Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is also thought to be exploring similar trends, with rumors circulating of a tablet device under development that fits with Jacobs’ smartbook description.

During his presentation, Jacobs also touted Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader for both its technology and creating a new business model.

“We’re very interested in bridging the physical and digital worlds,” Jacobs said. He talked about coming portable devices and even sensors that might be embedded on a person’s clothing or body that would help deliver more local, personalized advertising and content.

“When you’re online, what might be most important to you is who is around you as opposed to who else is online,” Jacobs said.

Converging mobile advances are creating a “a perfect storm” Jacobs said, with carriers pushing to provide faster performance and hardware and software advances spurring consumer appetite for more new models.

“Consumers are clearly adopting 3G,” Jacobs said. “Next year, as 2G declines, we think 3G will pass it in unit numbers. In revenue, 3G passed 2G a long time ago.”

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