Communications

Let the sun power your calls

A Bluetooth speakerphone with no juice won't let you make hands-free calls, so Scosche equipped its SolChat device with a solar panel. When your car is parked in the sun, the SolChat keeps itself charged and ready. For winter months and enclosed garages, the SolChat also has a 12-volt charging cord.

Read our review of the Scosche SolChat solar-powered Bluetooth speakerphone.

Qualcomm, Broadcom reach $891 million settlement

Qualcomm and Broadcom announced Sunday that they have agreed to end patent litigation between the companies worldwide, with Qualcomm paying Broadcom $891 million, according to the announcement.

On Wednesday, Qualcomm delayed its second-quarter earnings statement, citing advanced settlement discussions with Broadcom.

Qualcomm made this statement Sunday: "Qualcomm and Broadcom today announced that they have entered into a settlement and multi-year patent agreement. The agreement will result in the dismissal with prejudice of all litigation between the companies, including all patent infringement claims in the International Trade Commission and U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, as well as the … Read more

Titanic clash brewing between Qualcomm, Intel

Handset heavyweight Qualcomm is set to butt heads with Intel as it readies its high-performance Snapdragon chip.

Qualcomm's three-year effort to design its first gigahertz-class processor for smartphones will come to fruition this summer. And if products roll out in the numbers Qualcomm claims, Snapdragon should solidify the San Diego, Calif.-based company's position as the preeminent maker of cell phone chips, while allowing it to challenge Intel's dominance in Netbooks.

I sat down with Mark Frankel, vice president of product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, last week to discuss the prospects for Snapdragon and Intel's increasing presence in small devices.

"From a business perspective and design win perspective, things have only increased since Q4 of last year," Frankel said of Snapdragon.

Toshiba will be the first to bring out a Snapdragon-based smartphone. "Toshiba is this summer. That's the only Snapdragon 'hard' device that's been announced so far. You'll see many more over the course of the year," Frankel said.

The Toshiba TG01 Windows Mobile-based phone was unveiled in February. It uses a 1GHz Snapdragon (aka the Qualcomm QSD8250 chipset), is only 9.9mm thick (versus 12.3mm for the Apple iPhone), runs Windows Mobile 6.1, sports a 4.1-inch WVGA 800x480 touch screen (versus 3.5-inch for the iPhone), and comes with support for 3G HSPA, Wi-Fi, GPS, and assisted-GPS.

(See video below of Qualcomm-developed game running on the Toshiba TG01 and Snapdragon.)

Acer and Asus, among others, are also expected to bring out Snapdragon-based products.

It took a long time for Qualcomm to reach this point. In November 2006, Luis Pineda, Qualcomm's senior vice president of marketing and product management at the time, told ZDNet UK that "chipsets based on Snapdragon should become available towards the end of 2007, with products appearing the following year." That didn't happen, of course.

Nevertheless, Qualcomm--as the leading provider of core silicon in cell phones--has a long history of providing chips for high-profile phones. The T-Mobile G1, which runs Google's Android operating system, is powered by Qualcomm's processor, for example.

One of Snapdragon's purported fortes is its performance. The chip runs at 1GHz, a milestone for the power-frugal ARM architecture, which typically yields processors that run at much lower speeds. (U.K.-based ARM licenses a basic chip design to companies including Samsung, Nvidia, Toshiba, and Panasonic, which take the design and modify it for their specific needs.)

Snapdragon boasts an ATI graphics engine, too. In February, Qualcomm acquired Advanced Micro Devices' ATI handheld chip technology, which includes intellectual property for "unified shader architecture" that has been used in Microsoft's Xbox.

Frankel said the ATI graphics engine will improve. "Going forward, you'll see more and more innovation done in-house," he said.

Qualcomm is also going multi-core, an established trend at Intel and AMD for PC and server chips but not for handheld devices because of the power requirements. And even Intel abandoned--though this may change later this year--multi-core in its Netbook Atom line-up because it would make Atom too power hungry.

"It is possible to have multi-core versions just as there are multi-core versions of Intel and AMD processors," Frankel said. "We do have a pretty robust CPU road map. (A dual-core) chip has been in development for some time. And it's well under way. It's sampling this year. You won't see it product this year. You'll see version one of Snapdragon," he said.

The Qualcomm QSD8672 dual-core Snapdragon is expected to reach speeds of 1.5GHz. … Read more

Qualcomm delays earnings, cites Broadcom discussions

Qualcomm has delayed its second-quarter earnings statement because of advanced settlement discussions with Broadcom, the company said Wednesday.

Qualcomm is delaying its earnings statement until Monday due to discussions with Broadcom "regarding a global settlement of all disputes between the parties which, if reached, would have an impact on the Qualcomm's financial results for the fiscal second quarter," the company said.

Revenue and operating income for the second quarter of fiscal 2009, excluding the potential impact of the Broadcom agreement, met or exceeded prior guidance, Qualcomm said.

In related news, on March 16, the U.S. District … Read more

'BB' 3G on the MacBook Air

In the interest of achieving faster 3G on my Apple MacBook Air while getting more bang from my BlackBerry, I've found two paths to 3G Nirvana. Well, maybe not quite Nirvana.

My first foray into 3G on the MacBook Air via a BlackBerry Storm produced satisfactory results. Here, the Blackberry served as a 3G modem via Bluetooth. The Bluetooth bottleneck, however, can be frustrating (it's closer to 2G than 3G) when there is a need for speed. So, I turned to a physically tethered connection via USB.

Let me preface this by explaining why I resisted a tethered (… Read more

New York solicits taxicab tech ideas

You got a better idea on how taxis should work? New York City is all ears.

On Tuesday, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) put out a request for information on how it can improve its taxi technology.

The TLC, in conjunction with the Design Trust for Public Space, staged an elaborate display at the New York International Auto Show in 2007 of taxis with innovative ideas on sustainability and design. Now it seems that the TLC wants to ensure that the public is aware of its interest in tech beyond hybrids.

The city's contracts with service providers for its tech tools program--referred to as the Taxicab Passenger Enhancement Program, or T-PEP--expire in about two years. The TLC seems to be shopping for options on how "to enhance the technology systems in each taxicab for the benefit of passengers, drivers, and owners alike," according to the announcement.… Read more

IBM, Samsung, others team up on next-gen chips

IBM, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, and others are teaming up on the development of next-generation chip technology for small, low-power devices with one wary eye on Intel, which is expediting its move to chips with smaller geometries.

IBM and its semiconductor technology alliance partners are announcing the availability of 28-nanometer (nm) chip technology, a little more than a generation beyond the 45nm technologies currently used by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices in their latest chips.

The first products using chips based on this technology are expected in the second half of 2010, an IBM spokesman said. Devices will include smartphones and … Read more

Ford picks Opera for in-dash Web browsing

Earlier today, we reported that Ford is bringing Sprint 3G broadband to its Ford Work Solutions technology suite for F-series and E-series trucks and work vans. This is great news, but it got our inner-geek wondering, "What browser does a Ford truck run?"

It turns out that Ford has chosen a mobile version of the Opera browser to power its in-dash Web experience.

Rod Hamlin, Senior Vice President Americas for Opera Software, said:

"Opera's vision has always been about giving people access to the full Web anytime, anywhere. No example showcases this better than delivering a … Read more

In-dash Sprint 3G to reach Ford trucks

Finally, a good reason to buy a truck this year: Sprint announced last week that the Internet connectivity of the Ford F-Series and E-Series vehicles equipped with in-dashboard computers will come through the Sprint Nationwide Mobile Broadband Network.

Although the advancement seems to be aimed at contractors who spend most of their workday in their trucks, the in-dash computers support LogMeIn, which enables users to remotely access an online PC, complete with all files and applications.

High-bandwidth Internet connectivity, coupled with a full-functioning in-dash computer, opens the market up to sales professionals or any worker who spends a lot of … Read more

Intel, GE chiefs announce health tech alliance

Updated on April 2 at 7:45 a.m. PDT with additional information throughout.

General Electric CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt and Intel CEO Paul Otellini on Thursday jointly announced an alliance to market and develop home-based health technologies to help seniors.

The technologies will help seniors live independently and help patients with chronic conditions manage their care from their home, the companies said.

GE Healthcare will sell and market the Intel Health Guide (PDF), a care management tool designed for healthcare professionals who work with patients with chronic conditions.

The market for "telehealth" and home health monitoring … Read more