Two years ago, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf came to Brainstorm Tech in Aspen in the midst of a bruising IP battle with Apple, and confidently predicted it would be settled. It finally was, in April, causing the company’s stock to soar.
Yesterday, Mollenkopf was back, and discussing another challenge—a ruling that the company’s licensing practices violate antitrust laws. Again, he was confident. And adding to his confidence was a Department of Justice filing this week that sided with Qualcomm and cited the need to protect the company’s business model for national security reasons. (Qualcomm is critical to “the race for 5G.”). “We think we will prevail,” Mollenkopf said.
Asked whether the legal and regulatory battles distract from the company’s core business, he replied: “It’s a distraction to about ten of us. But the people who are really focused on technology are still focused on it, because they love it.” That’s not counting, of course, the armies of lawyers who are making their living off of these cases.
Mollenkopf’s broader point was that “5G is coming,” and that will be a boon to his business. He predicted most people in the audience will have 5G phones by this time next year, with Qualcomm technology in them. Moreover, the company is expecting to see growth in its non-cell-phone businesses as companies reinvent their business models, putting mobile chips in everything to collect and process data. As Intel CEO Bob Swan put it on Tuesday: “Everything is going to be a computer.” Or a smartphone.
After his interview, I asked Mollenkopf whether the regulatory battles were changing the way his business operates. He said the main change is that the company is spending more time documenting its licensing negotiations and practices so it can show that “we don’t do a lot of the things we are being accused of.”
An interesting legal footnote: the antitrust case that Judge Lucy Koh based her ruling against Qualcomm on involved a fight between two ski resorts here in Aspen.
More coverage of the last day of Brainstorm Tech here.
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AROUND THE WATER COOLER
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