Qualcomm was one of the major cosponsors of Google’s Open Handset Alliance when it was announced last November. Qualcomm had not previously joined other mobile phone Linux efforts, such as LiMo (driven by Vodafone) and LiPS (once driven by France’s Orange).
This week, CEO Paul Jacobs was all smiles with the announcement of the T-Mobile G1, with Google’s Android OS and a Qualcomm MSM7201A processor. Of course, Taiwanese maker HTC has been a longtime and loyal buyer of Qualcomm chips. HTC exactly fits Qualcomm’s business model, which allows new (and presumably less capable) entrants to compete with large vertically integrated incumbents.
Google leverages the same market entry process. HTC doesn’t have the ability to design its own smartphone architecture to compete with the iPhone or Blackberry or various Nokia smartphones. Instead, it has produced probably the widest range of Windows Mobile devices. With the long-rumored G1, HTC is demonstrating its commitment to an open innovation sourcing of technology rather than to Microsoft per se.
Both firms thus have an interest in empowering new entrants, thus increasing handset competition and reducing the power of incumbents. Otherwise, their business objectives are quite divergent.
Google wants its software component to be a commodity so it can make money on another part of the ecosystem, i.e. ad-supported web applications. Qualcomm (like Microsoft) has spent billions on component R&D so it can make money selling those components.
And, in fact, Google has made sure that Qualcomm will not have an exclusive role in supplying Android hardware components. Google wants to commoditize the entire mobile Internet stack, except of course for its near-monopoly on key web applications. So Android adoption is a clear win for Google but has risks for Qualcomm.
One interesting opportunity, not yet tapped, is when will there be a CDMA phone enabled by Android. RIM is selling its Blackberry to all carriers, but otherwise the most exciting smartphones are GSM only: iPhone with AT&T, the G1 (so far) with T-Mobile, and Nokia (perhaps someday) selling to both.
The OHA was launched last November with the two weakest US carriers — T-mobile and Sprint, with the two major US carriers holding out. A month later Verizon also joined in, so three of the four Big Four (and both of the CDMA carriers) are in OHA.
Whatever the Android platform’s pizzaz relative to the iPhone, in the CDMA world it would be a dramatic step forward except for the most hardened Crackberry addict. A quick Google search suggest that all has been quiet since last December on what Verizon plans, although there’s been considerable speculation about Sprint’s needs and hopes to ship an Android phone.
As a loyal Sprint customer going back to more than a decade (and Sprint's cooperation with Cox to deploy CDMA in San Diego), there’s a huge pent-up demand for a good smartphone on their network Will it make it in time for Christmas? I guess we’ll find out soon.