Years from now, when we look back at the technologies that shaped and impacted us the most, on a grand and magnificent scale, I believe we will recognize the importance of the push and adoption of wireless technologies like 5G. Qualcomm had been involved in virtually every major 5G launch globally, helping with the swift rollout of the technology in over 35 different countries. Considering how multi-faceted 5G technology is, this is no small feat. Through it all, Cristiano Amon, former President and now CEO of Qualcomm, was at the front of the whole operation, spearheading the development and rollout of 5G with the help of 45 other companies, one year ahead of schedule.
You can listen to Daniel Newman, President of Futurum Research, and I, as we interview Amon in a special piece for the Six Five Summit 2021 here. As Cristiano Amon takes on his new role as CEO, I want to run through a compelling vision that he has for the wireless communication space, for the connected IoT, and the future of Qualcomm.
Understanding the role of Qualcomm in the wireless technology space
Cristiano Amon knows the breadth of coverage that Qualcomm has in everybody’s lives today with his 25 years of experience at Qualcomm. Qualcomm’s business is wireless communication and low-power computing, spanning everyday consumer and enterprise devices, from smartphones and Wi-fi, to automobiles, computers, smart homes, and 5G fixed terminals and small cells. Under the wide umbrella of technological applications, Amon embodies Qualcomm’s deep aspirations to get everyone, and everything connected all the time. If I could include more absolutes in the previous statement, I would. The pandemic-boosted race to digital transformation means there is a demand for Qualcomm technology across every industry, putting Qualcomm in the position of pacesetter for much technology innovation.
We saw this with the rollout of 5G itself. Qualcomm was the largest player in the rollout of 5G from end to end; it understood that 5G goes beyond the smartphone and into other applications like IoT, automotive technologies, and mobile computing using the cloud. 5G is not just the next generation of fast internet but the solution which binds everything to be always connected all the time. And, if there is a future where everything is built in the cloud, everything is running in the cloud, and everything is in the cloud, then someone has to be the one upholding the cloud. That is what Amon envisions Qualcomm to be and is doing now. Qualcomm is the beneficiary of the transition to the cloud. Qualcomm is the company connecting everything to the cloud and unlocking the full potential of our digital future.
Imagining the everything
It is very easy to see the depth of 5G stopping at merely improving the smartphone. The reason is that, in the rise and adoption of 4G, we saw the smartphone come to its final and complete form as a critical part of our lives. Social media, streaming services, multiplayer gaming, etc., all changed the way we used and interacted on the internet, and with each other, and the centerpiece was our devices— our smartphones. Today we have so much more than our smartphones. We have IoT, smart vehicles, smart homes, smart cities, AR/VR, and many other technologies that will, without skipping a beat, benefit from 5G because 5G is beyond the smartphone—it is about connecting everything to the cloud all the time. The incredible twist is that it doesn’t mean the smartphone will be a thing of the past or an old technology like a VHS or floppy disk. Rather it will change and evolve as we have already seen happen before.
Amon points out that Qualcomm never bets against integration, which is why Snapdragon is about integrating more and more into an SoC. The same is true for the smartphone, when you look at how every consumer electronic device became a part of what we know as the smartphone. Think about the camera, the calculator, or even the flashlight! What more can we fit in the palm of our hands?
Amon’s vision of the smartphone encapsulates the full convergence of smartphones and PCs. The ludicrous speeds of 5G enable us to access computing power that goes far beyond what we can put in our hands by unlocking the processing resources of the cloud. Every time you need computing power for high workloads, you can pull it out of your smartphone and do it on your phone. In some cases, you may not know you are using the cloud to stream incredible compute power because apps use it in the background to work through heavy AI workloads. It will also change the way we value our laptops because we won’t need the best processor or the one that sucks the least amount of juice. Our laptops and devices will value long battery, ultra-mobility, and 5G connectivity. Amon’s Qualcomm imagines the breadth and the depth of how 5G will connect everyone with everything all the time.
Vision for QTL and the supply shortage
The vision to bring everything together is also fundamental in the way Qualcomm does its licensing business. It is not about Qualcomm connecting Qualcomm to everything Qualcomm. It is about scaling the industry so that everyone can innovate using a horizontal platform. When companies work together, rather than one company trying to do everything, entire ecosystems come together, as we saw in 5G.
This philosophy will have a large role to play when Qualcomm and partnering companies look to survive or get out of our current supply shortage. Qualcomm was able to generate growth in the middle of the supply shortage. Amon sees how the semiconductor supply chain fits the US government’s priority to scale manufacturing capacity on US soil. The digital economy touches every industry, and Amon has even said that the semiconductor industry is the steel industry of the modern age. It is vital. Qualcomm has done a great job of diversifying its foundries and locations, so that, rather than relying on one foundry or location that tries to do everything, it creates a healthy business environment for everyone.
The next big thing for Qualcomm
Qualcomm sees high-performance computing at the edge connecting to the cloud at a very fast pace. One of these technologies that is going to be very unique, that Amon envisions, is the revolution of the AR space. AR will move us outside the boundaries of smartphones to give us a platform that is not limited to the palm. Instead, it is limited by is possible with our smartphones. Qualcomm is investing early in VR and AR to help drive augmented reality glasses as the next computing platform. Just as we couldn’t have imagined what our smartphones would be with the adoption of 4G, we will have no idea what 5G can do to the augmented reality computing platform across all current platforms, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and workstations. If Qualcomm can implement augmented reality computing platforms as intelligently as it did its 5G ecosystem, then we are in for a treat.
I’m very much interested in where Amon takes Qualcomm and the entire industry technologically.
Amon has an incredible vision for how everything and everyone will be connected all the time. I can see the name Qualcomm becoming a household name soon as Amon and his team tackle IoT, automotive, and augmented reality platforms. Qualcomm knows it can’t do it all by itself and understands that we connect everything with everyone all the time by working together. I’m excited to see the next era of Qualcomm and how Amon, with his 25 years of experience at the company, pulls off the next impossible implementation of technology.
Note: This write-up contains contributions from Moor Insights & Strategy researcher, fact-checker and writer, Jacob Freyman.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.