Wired has interviewed Irwin Jacobs, a founder of Qualcomm. They talk about a wide-range of topics. Here's an excerpt that addresses Chinese tech giant Huawei's growth globally: At first, Qualcomm manufactured its own phone headsets, selling them in Asia. That was around the time it went public in 1991. Eventually, though, it sold off those parts of the business and became strictly an under-the-hood company. This decision wound up having implications in the current competition between the US and China, particularly with the telecom giant Huawei. Because of security concerns, the US is currently doing all it can to stifle adoption of Huawei's products. All of this might be easier if there were an American equivalent to Huawei -- a company working to pioneer the infrastructure of the next generation of wireless that also sold products directly to people. (In this case, that next generation is the much anticipated 5G standard.) Why didn't Qualcomm pursue that?
"We did think about that, but we wanted CDMA to go worldwide," says Jacobs. He says that Qualcomm was still fighting its Holy War, trying to get CDMA accepted everywhere. Being a competitor to carriers would impede that. In 1993, the strategy paid off, when CDMA became the wireless standard. Jacobs says he thought that other US companies, like Motorola, would stay in the business. But one by one, they either shut down or sold out to foreign companies. Qualcomm, by selling companies a comprehensive chipset that could power a cellphone, actually made it easier for new Chinese competitors to hit the market, because they had the tools to create a product instantly. "Unfortunately," he says, "nobody in the US has really run with it" and done the same thing. Another complicating factor is that governments in China and Europe have had industrial aid policies that helped their telecom firms in a way that the US has not. "Our government has not provided R&D support or other support that Huawei and ZTE (another successful Chinese firm) managed to get from their own government," Jacobs says.
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