CES 2013: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Burns Up Microsoft

Peter Judge

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 impressed Peter Judge, but the CES 2013 keynote raises questions about consumer and business technology

The arrival of Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs in the keynote slot at CES 2013 is a pretty big change. For the last dozen years, the show has been opened by Microsoft, and this time, it was kicked off by the leading maker of mobile chips, with an impressive bunch of co-stars.

Last year, it was announced that Microsoft was ending its presence at the show, which had to be inevitable, given the company regularly mishandles any sort of consumer electronics (Zune, Kin) and even struggles when it gets the product basically right (Windows Phone, Surface). Steve Ballmer still got in on the act this time, of course, but in a Qualcomm keynote, he was relegated to talking about burgeoning parts of Microsft’s ouevre – the Surface and Windows Phone.


CES 2013 – overstimulating the masses

Jacobs is not the same sort of performer as Ballmer. We watched the show on the web, and he was obviously relying on his autocue and his co-stars, but these made up for any lack of pizzazz.

Film excerpts from Guillermo Del Toro’s forthcoming Pacific Rim and a trailer for the Star Trek Into Darkness movie were shown from devices using the Snapdragon 800 chip, with the higher resolution Hyper HD duly given plenty of exposure.

And director Guillermo Del Toro clearly struck a chord with the audience, as did Alice Eve from the Star Trek movie.

But what has all this got to do with business technology?

It’s been fashionable for the last few years to talk of the “consumerisation” of business technology. Users are bringing in their own devices, we are told, and organisations can make use of the fast development cycles and mass market economics provided by consumer technology, to get really good tech to drive their businesses.

As CES 2013 takes off, and the business-oriented Microsoft gives way to an entertainment focus from Qualcomm in its keynote, we can’t help wondering if it really is happening that way.

Microsoft’s decline at this event seems to show that it’s actually not that easy to take consumer tech and turn it into a business tool. Superbly rendered dragons from mobile games don’t have any obvious business application, though we are sure there are plenty of people out there trying to convince us otherwise. Nor do the high-end renderings used in movies immediately spin off things that will help in the office video conference suite.

That is how it should be of course. Consumer tech is huge, and growing very fast: there are roughly three times as many phones activated each day as there are babies born.

In that context, business tech is always going to be a side issue, and we can’t expect the consumer electronics industry to deviate from its mission to over-stimulate the masses.

The change of figureheads at this year’s CES simply makes it clear who is in the driving seat in the consumerisation process.

CES 2013 Paul Jacobs Qualcomm keynote

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Microsoft CEO Stevbe Ballmer may have been relegated to a supporting role, but was still as ebullient as ever



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