Qualcomm CEO dials up Google phone history

Paul Jacobs talks about how his company's chip got into the T-Mobile G1, the first phone to run Google's Android operating system.

Qualcomm supplies the main processor for the T-Mobile G1, the first phone to run Google's Android OS. In an interview Tuesday, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs talked about the genesis of the Google phone and how his company became one of the principal players in the development of the handset.

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs with the T-Mobile G1
After a conference in San Diego, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs holds the T-Mobile G1, which runs Google's Android OS and is powered by his company's processor. Brooke Crothers

Jacobs said he goes way back with Andy Rubin, Google's senior director of mobile platforms. "I've known Andy Rubin for a long time--from the Danger days," Jacobs said. (Rubin is co-founder and former CEO of both Danger Inc. and Android, a start-up Google acquired in 2005 .) "When they started to get the idea to do an open-source operating system, they came and talked to us because we had the 3G chipsets and they knew us," Jacobs said.

On what Google brings to the mobile handset market that the Apple iPhone doesn't, Jacobs said, "They're trying to build an open developer's community and have the software be open source, and that means people will be able to modify it however they want."

What else makes Google's phone different? "The industry is also interested in seeing what new (business) models can accelerate time-to-market," Jacobs said. "Give people the opportunity to differentiate."

And Jacobs says Google's back-end services are crucial. "Everyone talks about cloud computing. This is cloud computing. It's got all those services on the back-end. It uses all that storage and compute power on the Net."

As for how HTC came into the mix, Jacobs said he has worked with HTC since its beginnings about 10 years ago. "We had an investment in HTC very early on. And I knew Peter Chao (HTC's chief executive)."

Jacobs said the relationship with HTC was forged when the Compaq iPaq, one of the most popular of the early handheld devices, first came out. HTC made the original Compaq iPaq handheld. "Microsoft got Compaq to sell it...the very first one that came out." The Compaq iPaq, which has been rebranded the HP iPaq, used Microsoft's PocketPC software.

So, looking back on all of this history, the principals from Android, Qualcomm, and HTC were really just leveraging longstanding relationships. "It was kind of like a bunch of people who had known each other for a long time in the wireless industries coming together," Jacobs said.

Jacobs also talked about the Qualcomm MSM7201A applications processor that powers the T-Mobile G1. "It's a system on a chip. We ported the Android operating systems onto it," he said.

Qualcomm optimized the Android software by integrating it with the MSM7201A--a dual-core chip that combines hardware-accelerated multimedia capabilities, 3D graphics and built-in, multi-mode 3G mobile broadband connectivity.

The MSM7201A is a 32-bit ARM9 processor that supports GPS functions, EDGE, and HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access).

Qualcomm is also one of the founding members of the Open Handset Alliance.

Qualcomm said today in a statement that it is also working with other manufacturers to develop handsets that operate on the Android platform.

Click here for full coverage of Google Android.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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