This has been a busy month, with events from Intel, NVIDIA and now Qualcomm each providing their vision of the future. I can’t talk about the NVIDIA event yet, but this week I’m with Qualcomm and what they are talking about is fascinating. Intel sees tablets and smartphones as the new PCs; Qualcomm sees tablets and desktop computing as up-scaled smartphones. Neither view is wrong, but clearly each views the market from its respective area of strength. In terms of performance, Intel has the strength, but Qualcomm is challenging. When it comes to volume, Qualcomm has the strength (there are simply more phones), but Intel is moving to challenge. This will likely be the battle that defines the future.
Let’s now focus on Qualcomm’s vision.
Connectivity and Computing
Qualcomm’s greatest strength is its wireless modems, so this is what it leads with. Its stated goal is to connect as many things as practical for an ever lower cost and ever higher dependability.At the junction of this is AllJoyn, tied to the AllSeen Alliance. It has 60 partners, including Microsoft, which has been one of the most aggressive platform vendors focused on actually selling more of this stuff. You don’t measure alliances like this on the number of partners but the progress these partners are making. That’s why Apple beat Microsoft’s PlaysForSure alliance; it made more progress. Microsoft is focused on making progress this time, and support for both Insteon and AllSeen should provide a significant advantage.
Another major Qualcomm initiative is LTE Direct, which operates to identify people you know in close proximity to you so you can translate an electronic relationship into a physical one. Though I kind of wonder if it will result in celebrities being swarmed, other uses of this technology would be in catastrophes where localized services could kick in and guide people to safety even if the cellular network failed, and location-based services (say within a store where you could be guided to deals). Facebook, the leader in social networking, came on stage to talk about how this technology could result in the organic formation of groups into physical social events.
One of the big emerging areas is personal robotics. Qualcomm positioned the current generation of personal robots (mostly vacuum cleaners) as smartphones with motors. The demonstration was a little dragon robot operating off the network autonomously. Using two cameras, the robot was then given generic commands to select objects by class (round or square or stuffed animal) into bins delineated by color. The company announced the Qualcomm Snapdragon Micro-Rover, a smartphone-powered robot that can use the smartphone’s camera to navigate. This development platform is designed to provide developers with the core tools needed to create the next generation of robotic solutions.
Vuforia is Qualcomm’s mobile vision platform, typically connected to augmented reality, but its application in the robot above was to help the robot see, so it clearly is evolving. The core demonstration was Lego Fusion, which allows kids to scan the physical model they created with Legos and translate that into a Lego video game. Since launch, this app has lead sales in its category. (Christmas is coming up and if you have kids …) It would seem that this technology could be incredibly useful for modeling. Moving from toys, the company announced support for 3D camera efforts from firms like Google and the launch of an SDK for see-through digital eyewear like Google Glass to assure stronger calibration and higher satisfaction.
Wrapping Up: Putting It Together
In the near-term future, we’ll be far more tightly connected. Our friends (and likely our employers) will know when we are close by, our glasses will transform what we see into more and more useful information, we’ll be surrounded by small autonomous robots doing a variety of ever more useful tasks, and we’ll be far more able to translate physical objects into virtual models.
In addition, the things around us will be far more connected and no longer will need us to physically operate. So we’ll go through our day seeing a blend of real and imagined things, far more tightly connected to the people who know (or want to know) us, and much of what we now do will be done automatically for us. I think we are approaching something that could either be very scary or incredibly magical. One thing is for sure. It will certainly be very different than the world we live in today.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+