Thursday, October 22, 2009

Despite Qualcomm, Sprint losing Kindle

Earlier this month, Amazon introduced an “international” (i.e. GSM) version of the Kindle 2 that uses AT&T (like the new Barnes & Noble Nook). Now CNET reports they’ve cancelled the CDMA Kindle 2, leaving only the 10" model on the Sprint EV-DO network (for now).

To get it all straight, I had to do some digging. Amazon has thus far released 4 Kindles:
Sprint was clever to partner to get this business, so it’s a shame they’re losing it — particularly since the Kindles began life as Powered by Qualcomm.

The original Kindle was powered by a Qualcomm MSM chip, and according to an iSuppli teardown, the Kindle 2 included a MSM6801A as part of a Novatel Wireless card.

A purported 2008 internal Qualcomm news article credits Qualcomm with working hard to launch the original Kindle:
The device is the result of a two-year collaboration with Qualcomm Enterprise Services, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, Corporate R&D, Corporate Product Security, the Office of the CTO and Corporate IT.

Amazon was originally introduced to QES through a modem manufacturer who hoped to provide modems for the Kindle. The same company had also worked with QES on the CardioNet project and knew that the wireless connectivity that Amazon envisioned for the Kindle was exactly what QES could deliver.

“The project was a natural fit for QES. We have been delivering end-to-end wireless data services for almost 20 years,” said Susan Hennenfent, Senior Director of Product Development for QES. “Our expertise allows our customers to focus on their businesses while we do what we do best.”
I haven’t seen a teardown on the Kindle 2 International to see whether Qualcomm kept the business or was pushed out of the BOM.

For phones, dual-mode Qualcomm chips have allowed Verizon (and occasionally Sprint) to support global roaming for voice and 3G data. I’m guessing that Amazon decided to switch to GSM rather than pay a premium for the dual-mode chip. Price has been a major concern: the latest Kindle 2 is $259, exactly matching the Nook and a full $100 below the first (CDMA) Kindle 2 when introduced 8 months ago.

Monday, October 19, 2009

End to CDMA iPhone hopes?

Rumors have been extant all year that — after turning down the iPhone back in 2006 — Verizon Wireless was actively negotiating to get the iPhone on its network. (Cynics noted that even the appearance of talking helped both Verizon and Apple against AT&T).

Verizon is locked in a battle for dominance with AT&T, and its ads this month have been making fun of AT&T’s network reliability with a pun (“there’s a map for that”) that also attacks the iPhone.

Now a new ad campaign has the Verizon promoting the Android-based Motorola Droid by attacking the iPhone. As John Murrell of Good Morning Silicon Valley (of the SJ Merc) wrote
This weekend saw the launch of a TV commercial and a Droid teaser site that opens with a scrolling list of direct jabs — “iDon’t have a real keyboard. iDon’t run simultaneous apps. iDon’t take night shots. iDon’t allow open development. iDon’t customize. iDon’t run widgets. iDon’t have interchangeable batteries.” — and finishes with a hard right: “Everything iDon’t, Droid does.”
Murrell suggests:
[T]he direct Droid attack would seem to be more evidence that Verizon has dropped any hopes of landing an iPhone deal itself and has chosen to cast its lot with Google
although he hedges his bets by noting new rumors of Apple/Verizon cooperation on a CDMA/LTE phone.

It’s pretty clear that Apple won’t develop a CDMA version without Verizon. I believe Sprint has too many problems to be a major launch customer, and it’s already put big eggs in the Palm and Android baskets.

Yes, China Telecom and KDDI (in Japan) together have as many subscribers as Verizon Wireless. However, the iPhone demand in those two countries is much weaker than in the US and Western Europe, so if there isn’t a US CDMA iPhone, then there isn’t going to be one.