In a recent opinion piece on the WiMAX Trends website, Robert Syputa positions Qualcomm and Intel as the big looming battle for the wireless frontier, and thus the growth area of the future. The argument is that Qualcomm owns the majority of the IP for 3GPP and 3GPP2 standard technologies for BWA, and that with the convergence of fixed and mobile networks the San Diego chipmaker is increasingly threatening the future of the San Jose company. Intel, thus, has staked its future on WiMAX technology, says Syputa, and needs it to win the battle for Broadband Wireless in much the same way as it needed WiFi to win the battle for WLAN. But while I often agree with Mr. Syputa, there's one problem this time. Intel was NOT AT ALL a WiFi champion -- in fact, Intel championed the now forgotten HomeRF technology instead of the young 802.11b standard. What I find most informative was the way Intel lost that battle, and then promptly abandoned HomeRF in favor of WiFi, leaving all its former allies behind. Did Intel suffer for having chosen the wrong horse? Not much. As it turns out, it mattered little to Intel which technology won the WLAN battle, but what really mattered was that some technology won. Intel could then ride the WiFi wave by integrating someone else's chips with the Pentium M, calling it Centrino, and selling a bundle of new laptop hardware. They made about as much money on WiFi as they would've made on HomeRF. It wasn't a win/lose scenario, but a win/win-later scenario for Intel. I believe that that is the precedent we need to understand. If WiMAX falters, is unduly delayed, or is beaten to mobility by some other technology (which appears to be happening), then at some point, Intel will simply abandon ship and adopt the other technology. I know that this seems impossible when you listen to the loving tones coming from Intel execs as they wax poetic about WiMAX, but that's exactly how they spoke about HomeRF until the day before they dumped it. So, while I have agreed with Syputa in the past, this time I can't cotton to his thesis that Intel-Qualcomm is the "Clash of the Titans" which will be pivotal to Intel's success. I agree that it is indeed a clash of titans, but it is by no means pivotal to Intel's success. They will gladly sail whatever ship gets them to BWA town first.
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