Qualcomm Technology Bypasses PCs for Data Transfer, Taps USB

By Carmen Nobel  |  Posted 2002-11-18

Mobile phone chip manufacturer Qualcomm Inc. has plans for technology that lets small devices transfer data via a Universal Serial Bus interface without having to use a PC as a middleman.

The San Diego company last week announced it has licensed USB On-The-Go technology from TransDimension Inc., a small company in Irvine, Calif.

Many devices currently support USB, but it does not allow them to act as hosts. This means that users who want to move data from one device to another must plug a device into a PC to download files, then plug the other device into the PC to upload the files onto the new device. USB On-The-Go will eliminate the middle step, meaning a cell phone equipped with USB On-The-Go will be able to trade data with any device that has a standard USB port—such as a printer, a digital camera, an MP3 player or a keyboard.

"It also standardizes the connector, which has been an issue with many peripheral products," said Rick Goerner, TransDimensions CEO.

Qualcomm has licensed controllers, drivers and related software from the company and has announced plans for it in upcoming chips. Qualcomm officials said USB On-The-Go will be part of the companys upcoming MSM6500 chip set, which has the primary function of allowing roaming between CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks.

Qualcomm plans to start sampling the chip set in the second quarter of next year.

A consortium called the USB Implementers Forum released USB On-The-Go as a self-approved protocol in December of last year. But Qualcomm is the first company to announce definite plans to get it into devices.

USB On-The-Go

  • Cuts out PC as middleman for USB data connections
  • Allows USB-enabled devices to act either as host or peripheral and to switch back and forth
  • Lowers the power requirements for USB on small devices
  • Officials acknowledged that it took a while to persuade licensees to adopt the technology.

    "After nearly nine months of discussion and negotiation, they chose us as their source for the On-The-Go technology on their next-generation phones," Goerner said.

    Qualcomm support is generally a boon for any technology because the company owns the better part of the CDMA chip market.

    "It really wasnt until Intel [Corp.] put it into the chip set that USB really took off," said Dave Murray, vice president of marketing at TransDimension.

    TransDimension officials said they hope to win broader backing for USB On-The-Go by getting additional support from competing companies that focus primarily on GSM.

    "We hope to have one [licensing announcement] a month within the next few months," Goerner said.

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