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Qualcomm (QCOM) is one to keep an eye on..

November 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Very interesting company…

  • It’s certainly not cheap, at 47 times 2008 earnings, although a lot cheaper at 17 times 2010 earnings
  • It is debt free, however, and it even pays 1.5% dividend.
  • Technically, it’s in a bit of a consolidation phase, so we would not be buying at this time, see chart below

However, the company has it’s fingers in several interesting pies
. We especially like that new superthin eBook reader with colour screen…

The list of companies looking to make a major impact in 2010 is as long as my arm, but right near the very top will be Qualcomm.

The chipset and software maker has long sat in the shadows, but it is behind the 1GHz Snapdragon processor seen in the likes of the HTC HD2, Toshiba TG01 and Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and a driving pioneer of the it’s-not-a-netbook-it’s-not-a-smartphone ‘smartbook’ sector and if its overall showcase yesterday is anything to go by its future days look set to be in the sun.

As you might expect, the company was keen to show off its smartbooks and its striking Snapdragon powered Quanta smartbook (above) immediately caught the eye. Qualcomm rep Ben Timmons sadly confirmed it was just a concept, but did reveal the previously teased Lenovo smartbook will be the first official model on sale early next year. The concept itself however was extremely light (possibly sub 1Kg), well made and had integrated HSDPA. Timmons added that smartbook prices would be “significantly less than netbooks” and offer “much better battery life” so the sooner they get to retail the better. Interestingly, given Snapdragon comes from an original ARM design it cannot run Windows, so Qualcomm had ported Android across. More practically however would be an Ubuntu/Linux operating system… or perhaps even Chrome OS…?

Alongside this we also saw a more generic Windows Mobile 6.5 based MID, described as a “niche device” and superb tablet design (background of the smartbook photo) with wireless detachable keyboard. The MID ran Snapdragon, but sadly the latter was just a mock-up.

Away from smartbooks Qualcomm also demonstrated its savvy in some surprising areas – most notably wireless charging. With PowerMat and Gear4’s PowerPad already on the market this isn’t anything new, but where Qualcomm’s ‘eZone’ charging comes to the fore is its similarity to NFC (Near Field Communications) technology which means devices only need to be in close proximity rather than direct contact to charge. This is a small change, but possibly a killer one. On the downside existing devices will still need rather bulky cases – as seen with other offerings – but Qualcomm has stated a desire to see it integrated directly into devices and its strong relationship with the smartphone manufacturers means it could prove more persuasive than others.

Qualcomm has its fingers firmly into the dongle pie too (metaphor too far?) and said it will be supplying many of the next generation HSPA+ and LTE dongles to networks around the world as well as working directly with telcos to setup these networks from scratch. Not a bad sector to play a fundamental role in.

Finally, another market set to explode in 2010 is eBooks and Qualcomm has also made huge strides here. Working in partnership with its offshoot mirasol it has come up with an ultra low power colour screen technology which, like e-ink, consumes no power when static and can be easily read in direct sunlight, Unlike e-ink though it also uses a fraction of the power of today’s LCDs when showing dynamic content.

Mirasol said it hopes to bring colour eBook readers to market with this tech next year and demoed readers with magazine-style colour and text layouts on super thin prototypes. On top of this it ran video to a very high quality on smaller smaller screens (image above doesn’t do justice to the moving image) and claims there is very little premium in terms of cost compared to LCD. When used on a laptop mirasol said these screens should improve overall battery life by 30-40 per cent.
So that’s a new laptop sector, the world’s next generation 3G dongles, contact-less wireless charging, colour eBooks and continuing to power many of the world’s most popular smartphones. Yep, I expect Qualcomm to have a gooooood 2010!

Tags: Technology