LAS VEGAS—In a sign of how wireless technologies have moved to the fore in consumer electronics, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs kicked off the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here Monday night with a keynote spotlighting the impact of superfast processors on mobile apps, gaming and even ultra high-definition television (Ultra HDTV). Smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices have replaced PCs as the most popular platform for creating and consuming content, Jacobs noted, adding that consumers now want all of their electronics—in their homes, offices and automobiles—to tie in with their mobile devices or to include wireless features of their own.
A key component of Qualcomm's strategy is its Snapdragon line of chipsets, so called because each includes multiple central processing units (CPUs), graphics processor units (GPUs), modems and circuitry to decode high-definition video—on the same chip. The company announced its latest versions of Snapdragon on Monday. The high-end 800 series operates 75 percent faster than its predecessor (the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor), features multiple CPUs that each operate at 2.3 gigahertz (faster than many laptop processors) and includes a 4G LTE modem capable of a highly respectable data download speed of 150 megabits per second.
Snapdragon chipsets are poised to play a role in another key CES trend—the emergence of Ultra HDTV. Mobile devices running the Snapdragon 800 series will be able to capture, playback and display UltraHD video, which has four times the pixel density of today's 1080p high-definition standard.
Jacobs invited Guillermo del Toro—director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy—on stage during the keynote to discuss the benefits of UltraHD and plug del Toro's latest film, Pacific Rim, set for release in July. In fact, the keynote featured a clip of the film, in which humans create 250-foot-tall robots to fight an alien threat, played in UltraHD. When watching a film, viewers should experience it exactly as the director intended, whether the movie is playing in a movie theater, in one's living room or on a tablet computer, del Toro said.
Of course improvements must be made to networks to manage all of this high-bandwidth multimedia content, Jacobs acknowledged. To accommodate what Qualcomm predicts will be a 1,000-fold increase in network traffic in the coming years, Jacobs renewed his company's call for greater use of portable base stations called femtocells and for the government to allocate underutilized licensed spectrum for unlicensed wireless communication. To help on the network side, Qualcomm subsidiary Atheros, Inc., last week introduced technology that gives Wi-Fi routers and gateways the ability to intelligently manage traffic across a home's broadband connection. Network equipment makers Alienware and D-LinkSystems are demonstrating routers featuring this Atheros StreamBoost at CES this week.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who delivered the CES opening night keynote for the past several years, made a guest appearance onstage with Jacobs to plug Microsoft's efforts in the mobile space, which consists primarily of the latest Windows operating system running on a variety of Snapdragon-powered smart phones and tablets. Microsoft debuted Windows 8 a year ago at CES and rolled out the operating system late last year.
Jacobs also used his keynote as a showcase for several high-profile apps. Brad Keselowski, 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, joined Jacobs to promote a new app for watching car races on Ultra HDTV-enabled mobile devices. Big Bird later stepped onstage to demo an educational app developed by Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind the Sesame Street show, that uses Qualcomm's Vuforia augmented reality technology. Actress Alice Eve followed, discussing her role in the upcoming movie Star Trek Into Darkness as well as a Qualcomm-enabled geolocation app designed to get Trekkies pumped up for the new film.
Jacobs' keynote wrapped up with a performance by Maroon 5. The band's connection to Qualcomm technology was a bit tenuous, but no one seemed to mind as frontman Adam Levine sang an acoustic set that included This Love and Payphone.
Image courtesy of Scientific American