Brussels Calling: Qualcomm wins in a wasteful industry
James Thompson, executive vice president of engineering at Qualcomm Technologies Inc., provided a 30 minute presentation, on mobile computing in which he concluded that Qualcomm has a bright future in the mobile because of the apparently endless appetite for new features in ever-more sophisticated mobile phones and tablets. Qualcomm plans to answer that demand through fabless manufacturing coupled with a deeper engagement with the semiconductor industry, Thompson said.
During his talk he observed that the general business model in mobile telephony is that consumers get a new phone plus a two year contract and every two years and are eager to upgrade because each phone has brought new and exciting features.
It was not so much the content of Thompson’s talk that displayed the difference between the U.S. and Europe as what happened after.
During the question and answer session at the end of his talk an audience member asked what Qualcomm was doing about recycling. Thompson hesitated before saying: "Recycling is not something I normally think about."
Thompson then responded that Qualcomm is involved in wireless charging, which is green because it can save consumers from having multiple "wall wart" transformers plugged in all the time. I think this is a specious argument as I have written elsewhere (see London Calling: Forget wireless charging) but in any case does not address the topic of recycling.
So it was left to the questioner to be more specific about what he meant. What is Qualcomm doing to design phones and chips so that component elements and materials are more easily recyclable, and thus mitigate the waste of throwing away a phone every two years? The mobile phone industry and its users are now responsible for hundreds of millions of phones, loaded with expensive-to-produce silicon, plastics and precious metals headed toward landfill, incineration, or offshore unregulated deconstruction.
Answer there was none. But it is perhaps something that should be starting to climb up Thompson’s and Qualcomm’s agenda?