Qualcomm Chips to Get USB On-The-Go

The technology lets small devices transfer data via a USB interface without having to use a PC as a middleman.

Mobile phone chip manufacturer Qualcomm Inc. has plans for technology that lets small devices transfer data via a USB (universal serial bus) interface without having to use a PC as a middleman.

The San Diego, Calif., company announced this week that 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 give them the ability 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, digital camera, MP3 player or 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 already has announced plans for it in upcoming chips. Qualcomm officials said USB On-The-Go will be part of the companys upcoming MSM6500 chipset, which has the primary function of allowing roaming between CDMA (code division multiple access) and GSM (Global System for Mobility) networks.

Qualcomm plans to start sampling the chipset in the second quarter of 2003.

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.

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

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

TransDimension officials said they hope to get broader support for USB OTG 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.