Qualcomm's Jacobs pushes Internet of Things

Qualcomm boss Paul Jacobs has outlined his vision of the future at the company's Innovation event: a world where mobile devices supplant PCs, with his company's chips at the heart of the ecosystem.

Speaking to assembled press and analysts, Jacobs took to the stage in the luxurious Çırağan Palace in Istanbul today to explain how he sees the convergence of mobile devices and computing in the developed world and beyond.

"The fundamental trend that we all know is that mobile is now the dominant computing platform," Jacobs told attendees. "That's not the future - that's now. The install base of smartphones has already surpassed PCs."

That's a sea change which shouldn't be overlooked, Jacobs argued. "There were limitations to how computing happened in the past - now we do it when we're moving around," he explained. "Mobile is everywhere with you - you take it wherever you go. It's about doing things when you have the time."

That's been a major shift in the developed world, with users enjoying permanent connections and the ability to send and receive messages and content wherever they are, but it's something which Jacobs believes will be even more fundamental in developing nations. "Four out of five mobile connections are in emerging markets," he claimed, "and in many cases it will be the only computing device that they have."

While many of the devices Jacobs talked about were feature-phones, he outlined a strategy to drive down the cost through heavy integration - something his company has been famously keen on, moving from a modem producer into GPS, graphics, central processing, and other functions in order to provide a one-stop-shop system-on-chip design for its customers - to the point where a true smartphone can be had for around $50.

"We're not there yet," Jacobs admitted, but claimed that the integration work his company is doing will eventually lead to such a goal.

"Turning to the device - that's the thing that people notice," said Jacobs. "In many ways, it defines the experience that people have in mobile computing. We really need to match the experience that they have on their TV, on their PC, on their games console. We've seen how important it is to have a user experience which is truly magical."

That's a large part of what Qualcomm is doing, Jacobs explained. The company spends a surprisingly large proportion of its revenue on research and development, which leads to technologies that can drive the future of mobile and embedded computing like the Snapdragon S4 mobile processor. Capable of scaling to 2.5GHz and four processing cores, the S4 series will boost mobile devices to an impressive level of performance without sacrificing battery life, claimed Jacobs.

The vision Jacobs espoused wasn't purely about mobile devices, however, but about the Internet of Things - or, as he terms it, the Internet of Everything. "It's possible that there will be a sea of sensors," he claimed, "and these will all be connected. Is that possible - a thousand radios per person? I don't know," he admitted.

It's a project that has far-reaching implications - into retail, gaming, social networking, and healthcare - and one that Qualcomm isn't afraid to open up to its competitors. The company's first step on the road to the Internet of Everything, a software platform for proximity-based peer-to-peer communications called AllJoyn, is licensed under a permissive BSD-style open source licence. "It already runs on multiple operating systems," Jacobs told attendees. "If we're going to enable this Internet of Everything, it can't just be vertically integrated with proprietary solutions exclusive to one manufacturer."

While little of Jacob's speech will have come as a surprise to attendees, the scale of his company's vision is impressive: in Jacob's future world, everything talks to everything - via Qualcomm communications hardware, naturally.