Mobile innovation will continue to be the growth engine of consumer electronics

7 January 2014 by Steve Blum
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Left to right: Vestberg, moderately bright moderator Andrew Keen, Jacobs, Donovan.

Qualcomm’s outgoing CEO, Paul Jacobs, Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg and AT&T mobile executive John Donovan sat down on stage at CES this morning, for a conversation about the “global innovation of mobile”.

The longest view ahead came from Jacobs. “One thing that’s cool and scary and at the same time is neuromorphic computing”, he said. Qualcomm is trying to reverse engineer natural brains – starting with insects and working up to humans – to build computers with high cognitive functions that operate on relatively little energy. The potential is there, as well, for networking brains directly into digital devices, something he said has already been done on a very rudimentary level with rats.

Vestberg talked about fundamental network infrastructure challenges. “A combination of broadband, mobility and the cloud will transform any business”, he said. It depends, though, on carriers transforming networks originally built for voice communications to completely broadband-centric designs. By 2019, he said, 85% of the world’s population will be covered by systems that deliver at least 3G data service. More people will have the means of using those systems, too. For every $10 drop in the price of smart phone, 100 million more people can afford one, according to Vestberg.

Mobile devices will get bigger, Donovan predicts. Much bigger. “I think that in three years the car will blow us away”, he said, describing a blending of cars, content and services that will fundamentally change how we spend time on the road. “It’ll be a productivity experience, if you want. It’ll be an entertainment experience”. I can only hope that vision includes someone – or something – else doing the actual driving.