Qualcomm consistently gets a bad rap in the industry. In many ways they seem to be like the Evil Empire in the Star Wars movies - having established their dominance over virtually all meaningful 3G standards through their intellectual property in CDMA (including the EV-DO networks launched by Sprint and Verizon) and WCDMA (including the UMTS and HSDPA 3G standards for GSM networks). Qualcomm extracts what it believes to be fair payment for its contributions to the advancement of the industry. Clearly, this situation does not sit well with competitors and even some customers. Qualcomm does not mind applying a little force to ensure that its subjects remain loyal and to eliminate the threat of any upstart forces.
However, many have believed that the greatest threat to the Qualcomm empire has been a pocket of Jedi-like competitors using some mystical force known as “WiMAX” to challenge the power of Qualcomm. Some now believe that Qualcomm is preparing to aim it’s deathstar-like legal weapons at these upstarts to bring them into submission.
Here’s a collection of fairly recent articles representing the resistance to Qualcomm’s power:
Given that, over the same period, NTP and Visto have also been in the news for aggressively protecting their supposed Intellectual Property Rights against major wireless players, some might view Qualcomm, NTP, and Visto all in a similar light. Here’s just a sampling of headlines from the NTP and Visto frontlines:
However, as greedy as Qualcomm may seem, comparing them to NTP and Visto is just plain unfair. If the Evil Empire analogy at times seems to fit Qualcomm, then a comparable analogy for NTP and Visto is Jabba the Hutt. Although there’s a clear distinction between the criminal Star Wars character and the assumed-non-criminal intellectual property companies, they both share the characteristics of wanting to get rich without doing any “real” work.
Qualcomm, on the other hand, is a “real company” with real products, with significant real business in the wireless industry. It truly is a force to be reckoned with. One that threatens its competitors with visible force rather than sneeking around trying to collect payments with as little fuss and as little visibility as possible.
You don’t have to like Qualcomm, but they are worthy of respect.
As always, the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer (although Sprint clearly agrees that Qualcomm is worthy of respect).