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I wrote << >> http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=13232688

You wrote {{ }} http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=13234235


{{<< It is not clear at all right now that QCOM will have this control over 3G. If the majority of the world adopts the committee approved W-CDMA standard for 3G as the upgrade path, and it executes and ships smoothly, there will be no gorilla in 3G, as nobody will individually contol an open proprietary standard. In that case QCOM will still be a toll-booth for 3G, collecting 5% or whatever, and a fine investment but it won't be a Gorilla, and will have a much diminished GAP, in the GAP-CAP diagram of market capitalization. >>

Whoa, I think I got a problem with that.

QCOM has the essential patents for CDMA chip design. QCOM's CDMA patents are the common denominator in all flavors of CDMA chips. Without QCOM's proprietary technology, there can be no CDMA chips made for 3G. So, I say QCOM does control the 3G standard. }}

I stated that QCOM likely does control essential patents for all flavors of CDMA, especially since some of its key patents were upheld in Japan and I think Europe as well. Without QCOM's proprietary technology being licensed it is unlikely than any 3G chips can be made. But I think my point related to “control” over the W-CDMA standard, which QCOM manifestly does not have, and the possibility, not the certainty just the posssibility, that this W-CDMA standard may become the dominant standard for 3G worldwide. QCOM does not even participate in the group that developed this standard- it had no input. It didn't chose what “font, style, character size” the standard would take on, all the gritty little details that one has to design chips to. The standard is out there, for all to see now- QCOM has no ,say 1 year hypothetical, in house headstart to the specifications of this standard. QCOM will have no future headstart on standard revisions either- that future portion of the playing field will be level. If Dr. Jacob whimsically wanted to change the standard, say from “Helvetica to Monaco”, just to frustrate and delay competitors, he couldn't. If the standard body choses to change the next W-CDMA specification from “single spacing to double spaced” QCOM would have to comply in chip design, and “use twice as many sheets of paper to print it out”. If the standards body chose to eliminate “split-infinitives” QCOM would have to hire extra engineers at the last minute to eliminate all references like “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. If the standards body insists on “Canadian spelling” QCOM would be forced to change “flavor to flavour'” and “neighbor to neighbour”. QCOM does not have control over the W-CDMA standard, and this control contributes greatly to the GAP of the gorilla. Just imagine if hypothetically Microsoft had the patents for the idea of a graphical windows-like interface (which they don't, but just imagine) and consequently collected royalties on all computers for this interface, but at the same time a worldwide committee that Microsoft didn't belong to dictated what the specifications for all future upgrades would be. Imagine a committee telling Microsoft what Windows 2000 would be, and Microsoft having to scramble to meet the published requirements , instead of deciding itself, and instead of its other software divisions knowing long before competitors what they need to be compatible with. Control of the proprietary architecture is important in that it contributes to one component of the Gorilla's tremendous risk-adjusted return, the huge GAP, that makes shareholders smile. And it is clear as a cloudless day that QCOM does not have this control over the W-CDMA standard.

{{Some say that W-CDMA changes this...I haven't seen any evidence to support this. Maybe QCOM will end up in court at some point, although the Spinco arrangement seemed designed to head-off litigation...I don't know.}}

I hope my discussion above shows why W-CDMA may change things. If W-CDMA becomes the dominant worldwide 3G standard, QCOM will not be the Gorilla of 3G. It doesn't control this standard. QCOM will still be a fine investment, just not a Gorilla, it will likely collect royalties on all flavors of 3G, and will have a nice GAP, but not a Gorilla GAP. Litigation may be required by QCOM to collect CDMA royalties on 3G, but it can't make QCOM a Gorilla of 3G.

{{Eventually, the tornado comes down to market share for CDMA chip sales...who's shipping the most. As things stand today, I think QCOM owns about a 90% share of that business, and all this while others are perfectly free to manufacture CDMA chips ( as long as they pay QCOM their due ). Is there any reason to believe that QCOM's competition will suddenly discover the expertise to equal the quality of theQCOM offerings, such that the 90% figure will be pared down significantly? Will they somehow close the technological gap between themselves and QCOM?}}

I wasn't arguing that QCOM was an old moose, hounded and hunted down by a pack of wolves/ competitors, just that it wouldn't be a true Gorilla of 3G if W-CDMA comes to pass as the dominant worldwide standard. QCOM would be a formidable CDMA of all flavors chip producer, but its success would depend on continued long term execution, and that is a Royalty game not a Gorilla game. For the same reason I think it is safest to classify JDSU as a King even after the potential SDLI merger, and despite the great in house engineering talent it possesses, and despite its dominant component market share. JDSU still critically needs to execute. The QCOM 90% market share figure for CDMA chips is encouraging, but keep in mind the safe-harbour provision of present conditions being no guarantee of future success. America won the America's Cup for something over a hundred years- that didn't stop Australia from beating them in the early 90s I think. If QCOM were the Gorilla of 3G, then that would be as close to a guarantee as one could ever get. There are at least two hitches to their future success, one being the lack of Gorilla advantage in W-CDMA, and the other that W-CDMA contains some GSM ip that they will need to master and integrate. Neither is fatal, but they are challenges that a Gorilla wouldn't have, and we are looking for the very best of investments, the rare true Gorillas, though we often settle for “second best” Chimps and Royalty. I would certainly and have settled for QCOM.

{{<< For the moment as best as I can tell, QCOM is the Chimp of 2G. I've read people describe QCOM as the Gorilla of CDMA but that strikes me as a contrivance, though semantics- I could describe Apple as the Gorilla of the Mac World, but I think it makes more sense to admit that it came in second to the Wintel standard in PCs worldwide, and is a respectable Chimp. In my thinking CDMA, came in second to the combination of 2G standards GSM and TDMA worldwide, leaving it as a healthy Chimp in a 2G world that contains no competing Gorilla (lucky for QCOM). It's primate status in 3G depends on whether W-CDMA wins out and if it does, QCOM will at best remain a Chimp, and
Spinco at best a King of ASICs. >>}}

I was a bit sloppy in my use of the words “it” and “It's” , not to mention the embarassing grammar goof of the latter, and would have liked my paragraph to read as follows:

<< For the moment as best as I can tell, QCOM is the Chimp of 2G. I've read people describe QCOM as the Gorilla of CDMA but that strikes me as a contrivance, though semantics- I could describe Apple as the Gorilla of the Mac World, but I think it makes more sense to admit that Apple came in second to the Wintel standard in PCs worldwide, and Apple is a respectable Chimp. In my thinking CDMA, came in second to the combination of 2G standards GSM and TDMA worldwide, leaving QCOM as a healthy Chimp in a predominantly non-CDMA 2G world that contains no competing Gorilla (lucky for QCOM).
Apple wasn't so fortunate having to survive in a predominantly non-Mac / PC world containing the Gorillas Intel and Microsoft. QCOM's primate status in 3G depends on whether W-CDMA wins out and if it does, QCOM will at best remain a Chimp, probably again with no competing Gorilla, and Spinco at best a King of ASICs. >>

{{2G, 3G...these are semantics. Qualcomm is the gorilla of CDMA. Nobody can manufacture CDMA chips without paying Q its royalty, and they currently have a 90% market share. There doesn't always have to be a tornado in progress for a gorilla to exist. Is GSM proprietary? TDMA? Who "controls" them? 2G and 3G cannot be *owned* by anyone...they're not technologies, they're points in time. We use them to loosely describe "where we're at." The technologies are CDMA, GSM, TDMA...of these, CDMA is the only one that has the potential to generate a gorilla, and I think QCOM is that gorilla.}}

I don' t think 2G and 3G are just semantics , but rather describe overlapping technology adoption cycles with potential tornados of equipment upgrades, and the potential to crown Gorillas- 2G the digital upgrade, 2.5G voice and data, and 3G multimedia. I also think we'll just have to agree to disagree in that again while I agree that QCOM holds essential patents on CDMA of all flavors, I don't think this automatically makes them the Gorilla of future CDMA offerings, and certainly not the eventual Gorilla of W-CDMA which they don't control. As Moore points out in I think “Inside the Tornado”, Canon owned or shared in the rights to all the core technology of laser and ink-jet printers and still lost out to HP during the tornado of PC printers. I also don't think QCOM's current market share of 90% means they are a Gorilla if you are dealing with a Royalty game- it makes them and eventually Spinco, a King of chips at best, that needs to flawlessly execute, and should be held lighter than a true Gorilla.

I agree, we don't need a current ongoing tornado for a Gorilla to continue to exist, they survive quite nicely on Main Street- I would suggest though that QCOM wasn't crowned a Gorilla in the 2G cellular tornado but was left as a Chimp on mainstreet in a respectably sized 2G CDMA cage in the 2G zoo of creatures, a zoo that contains no Gorilla. QCOM is the biggest primate in this zoo, but it is caged by predominant carrier adoption of GSM with high swiching costs, geography and history, and consumer impotence and ignorance of the supposed advantages of CDMA, and QCOM does not nor likely will it, rule the 2G zoo.

I think I read that GSM is in fact proprietary the substantial royalties for ip being shared by I think NOK, NTT and ERICY and possibly others. But no individual company controls the standard, and so this standard cannot give birth to a Gorilla. I agree that CDMA is the only technology that can potentially generate a Gorilla, and QCOM is the only company with a chance, but again if W-CDMA is adopted, there will be no Gorilla for 3G as QCOM does not control the specifications of W-CDMA. Still QCOM will do well, just not Gorilla well- beating their chest and destroying Sampsonite luggage Gorillas are rare.

{{CDMA didn't "come in second" to GSM and TDMA...it's adoption is growing over time, as new technology arrives that begs for what only CDMA can deliver. In a word, 3G. We'll see.}}

I think that CDMA clearly is second so far in the 2G adoption cycle as the numbers clearly show, the last set I saw gave GSM alone nearly 5 times as many subscribers as CDMA. It seems that the OVERALL 2G adoption tornado is slowing, and certainly not the over 100% yoy one expects from an accelerating tornado. CDMA has somewhere between say 10-15% of the worldwide subscribers. Can it still surpass GSM? If its proportional adoption to GSM is to grow overtime, where will the new subscribers come from? It seems pretty clear that the only possible new 2G CDMA subscribers barring an alien invasion of the earth are first time cell phone users, or customers switching to CDMA from GSM or whatever. Look at Europe first: I don't see anybody picking up a CDMA phone there no matter how much better the technology is. They'd be alone in a sea of GSM with no support. I don't see any new operator putting in 2G CDMA technology for the same reason-their customers would be pretty frustrated anywhere else in the continent. This is one of the disadvantages for QCOM I see of the the cellular tornado compared to the PC tornado. The technology adoption isn't made by individuals, or small and large corporations, but by a few large carriers, and you end up with a few large and broad patches of technology adoption. Once the carriers are committed in an area, you can't really switch them back with promises of only modest improvement. There are very high switching costs. You can't make the case to consumers, because they have no choice in their area anyway, especially Europe. QCOM will not pick up new 2G customers in Europe by and large. QCOM has a lock on Korea and nobody knows what China will do so far, but also so far there is little 2G CDMA adoption in China. I think the US and Japan have both CDMA and TDMA/GSM but I don't really see how QCOM will suddenly win over these regions. Again carriers are unlikely to undergo a wholesale defection from GSM, due to prior capital investment and individual consumers don't seem to know “CDMA is better” even if that is true, and are unlikely to switch carriers to go to one that offers CDMA. There will not be an avalanche of customer defection forcing carriers to rip out GSM/TDMA and install CDMA. New users will probably be won over largely in proportion to present market share, because again they have no reason to seek out a CDMA carrier. Most folks don't even know what CDMA is or whether their phone even uses it. None of my friends have a clue except when there cell phone is actually made by QCOM and even then they don't know that the phone uses CDMA technology , and “CDMA is better”. QCOM and CDMA have almost no brand recognition. I don't see how QCOM is going to come from behind in 2G and be the dominant 2G technology. There are obviously other parts of the world with alot of people, and I don't mean to ignore them, but I don't think they are going to determine worldwide adoption.

But then 2G adoption, as best as I can tell, determines 3G adoption. 2G GSM and TDMA carriers are likely to adopt W-CDMA as the upgrade for 3G, if W-CDMA ships on time and is executed properly. W-CDMA then has a very good chance of being the dominant 3G interface, and QCOM does not control its quirky details or future revisions.

Now the knock-knock joke, courtesy of I think it was called “The Last of the Good Clean Joke Books”- no big suprise that thank god it was the last. Sort of better around Valentine's day, but Gorilla jokes like Gorillas, are pretty rare too, so I couldn't be too picky.

“Knock, knock”
“Who's there?”

“Gorilla”
“Gorilla who?”

“Gorilla my dreams- I love you”


Have a good what's left of the long weekend





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