Qualcomm's Gobi Laptop 3G Technology Targets WiMax - InformationWeek

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Qualcomm's Gobi Laptop 3G Technology Targets WiMax

The Gobi chips are certified to operate on CDMA2000, UMTS, and HSPA networks worldwide.

Qualcomm on Tuesday introduced its Gobi global media mobile Internet technology for laptops. The wireless infrastructure provider also picked up some important endorsements from Hewlett-Packard, Vodafone, and Verizon Wireless.

Qualcomm said the Gobi chipsets are available today and it expects the technology to be available commercially in laptops beginning in the second quarter of 2008. The announcement comes in the wake of a promise by Intel that WiMax technology will be widely available in laptops in 2008.

Qualcomm said the Gobi chips will operate on CDMA2000 EV-DO and UMTS HSPA networks worldwide. It wasn't immediately clear whether laptop manufacturers will have a choice of those standards or whether all will be included in the chips. This could be important for mobile phone service providers -- for instance, Verizon Wireless and Sprint use CDMA2000, while AT&T and T-Mobile utilize UMTS and HSPA.

"Gobi-enabled notebook computers with global mobile Internet unify the most important wireless carrier network technologies deployed around the world, providing comprehensive support for all 3GPP and 3GP2 technologies," said Qualcomm's chief operating officer Sanjay K. Jha, who also is president of the company's CDMA technologies unit.

Leading laptop manufacturer HP joined in the Qualcomm announcement. Matt Wagner, director of notebook strategy and planning in HP's personal systems group, said his company welcomes the Qualcomm Gobi effort "and the improvements it can offer notebook customers in enhanced international roaming and greater choice of mobile operator services." Wagner didn't say so, but HP is expected to offer WiMax capability in its laptops next year.

Oliver Mauss, Vodafone global director of business marketing, also hailed the Qualcomm technology, noting that his firm already is working closely with notebook manufacturers to integrate Gobi in its products. Vodafone is a somewhat unique mobile phone service provider because its services support both CDMA2000 (via its partnership with Verizon Wireless) and UMTS and HSPA (via its other global networks).

Verizon Wireless also joined the Qualcomm announcement with support for Gobi. Andrea Caldini, Verizon's executive director of product management and development, said Verizon is working with notebook manufacturers on Gobi.

Qualcomm also released some technical information on Gobi. The embedded solution includes Qualcomm's MDM1000 chipset, associated software, and API as well as a reference design for software-defined configurable data modules. The modules support both EV-DO Rev. A and HSPA, including backward compatibility. GPS functionality also is included in the chipset.

Qualcomm said it is introducing a common software API with support from software vendors including Birdstep Technology, Diginext, PCTel, and Smith-Micro Software.

A collision between laptop-embedded 3G and Wi-Fi/WiMax has long been predicted. Intel, which has pioneered Wi-Fi and WiMax and has championed their inclusion in laptops, has long argued that those wireless technologies will dominate the mobile user market. Qualcomm has argued that 3G is all that is needed.

Two years ago, Qualcomm co-founder Andrew Viterbi argued that broadband wireless -- like Wi-Fi and WiMax -- would likely be too expensive to ever garner user numbers as high as the numbers posted by cell phone service providers.

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