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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 7, 2013 at 6:31 PM

CES: Qualcomm opens the show, Ballmer makes cameo

LAS VEGAS — Qualcomm’s opening keynote today at the Consumer Electronics Show started with three young actors of the age that’s “born mobile” — those whose phones give them “the entire world in our hand.”

The generation is more empowered and connected than any generation in the history of mankind, the actors noted, in a dramatic entrance for Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs.

Jacobs, who delivered the keynote, is only the third person to fill the evening spot before the giant trade show opens, noted Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association that hosts the event. The previous two were Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

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Jacobs said it’s fitting to have a mobile company start the show, noting that Qualcomm products “are at the heart of mobile devices” and connected electronics.

“Mobile is the largest technology platform in human history,” he said.

There are more than 6.4 billion mobile connections worldwide — that’s almost as many mobile connections as there are people on earth, Jacobs said.

A million smartphone users are being added daily — more than the number of babies being born, he added.

Jacobs talked up Qualcomm’s role. The San Diego-based company is the top supplier of wireless chips, having shipped more than 11 billion chips. If you’re using a 3G or 4G device, it’s using Qualcomm technology, he added.

Two years ago, right here on this stage, Microsoft took a major step, saying the next version of Windows would be “born mobile” and run on mobile devices, Jacobs said.

Then he brought a surprise guest on stage — Ballmer, who demonstrated two Windows tablets and two smartphones, all running Qualcomm hardware.

The Microsoft CEO, sporting a clean-shaven, Jeff Bezos look, talked up progress made with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and new capabilities such as Xbox SmartGlass that lets people control their TVs with Windows Phones and tablets.

Ballmer then thanked Jacobs for “the opportunity to partner with Qualcomm” and bring people new Windows-based products “with an experience that was born mobile.”

Jacobs announced a new flagship Snapdragon processor. The 800 series processor will deliver up to 75 percent better performance than its predecessor and has already been chosen to be used in 50 more devices, he said.

The 800 series has remarkable power for tiny phone hardware.

The processors offer speeds up to 2.3 gigahertz — comparable to a laptop — and has a graphics processor that runs full-fidelity games and video at 30 frames per second. The hardware also includes gigabit-speed Wi-Fi capability.

Qualcomm’s 800 series will run not just phones and tablets, but full PCs as well. The processor is capable of capturing and outputing video in ultra high-definition with 4K lines of resolution and 7.1 surround sound.

“This thing really, really delivers on the promise of 4G,” he said.

To prove the capabilities, Jacobs brought film director Guillermo del Toro on stage and played an excerpt of his upcoming sci-fi film “Pacific Rim” using a tablet running the Snapdragon 800 processor.

Then del Toro showed a version of “Blade II” remastered in UltraHD and powered by a Snapdragon processor in the goriest demo in CES history.

Jacobs then moved on to other partners. He talked about the proliferation of Google’s Android platform — “a tremendous success story” — which largely runs on Qualcomm technology.

The proliferation of connected devices could generate up to 1,000 times more data, pressuring network capacities. Qualcomm is working with network operators on products such as tiny cell network stations the size of a deck of cards that people may add at home.

Jacobs said the “goal that we have is to bring the network closer to the users — that will ensure the best connections at the highest speeds,” he said.

“You can basically have a tiny cel phone tower on your bookshelf,” he said.

Qualcomm’s parade of celebrities continued with the appearance on stage of Brad Keselowski, 2012 Nascar Sprint Cup champion. He talked about how he uses his phone and Twitter to stay engaged with fans.

NASCAR vice president of digital media, Marc Jenkins, then demonstrated a TV app — running on Snapdragon hardware — that included live race coverage. Across the top of the screen was a leaderboard and on the right panel was a course map showing racers’ positions and racer bios. During the demo, the screen was adjusted to add in-car camera feeds on the right panel.

Jacobs then discussed the proliferation of sensors, including health and environmental sensors that give people a “digital sixth sense.”

Mobile phones also enable new healthcare technologies, Jacobs said, before playing a testimonial video by Archibishop Desmond Tutu in which he talked about the transformative potential of mobile health systems for Africa and the rest of the world.

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Qualcomm is sponsoring a competition to develop a “Star Trek” like tricorder health analysis device, which was his transition to play a preview of the upcoming movie, “Star Trek Into Darkness” on the stage’s theater-sized screen.

Qualcomm is working with Paramount on an app for the movie with geolocation capabilities; it adapts to the location of the phone it’s running on and displays different material and lets users earn rewards by noting nearby billboards or going to a theater with the film. Jacobs brought one of its stars, actress Alice Eve, on stage to discuss the app. Eve declined to discuss the film, saying fans have to wait for a preview coming during the Super Bowl.

To top that, Jacobs brought on stage a battery powered Rolls-Royce prototype that uses Qualcomm’s new “halo” charging technology. The system automatically charges electric cars when they enter a garage or a charging station, with no wires required.

Jacobs said the car’s sound system is “so awesome” it sounds like you’re at a concert, then he turned and introduced the band “Maroon 5” for a three-song concert that concluded his epic keynote.

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Here Ballmer and Jacobs compare their phone apps, on stage at the Venetian convention center:

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