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Qualcomm: We’re Not Trying to Compete in the Smartwatch Space

083013_TOQ-watch-headsets-black-303x285[1]When Qualcomm unveiled their Toq smartwatch a couple weeks ago many tech bloggers assumed that it would eventually show up on store shelves.

Now it seems that is not going to be the case. Qualcomm regional president John Stefanac, speaking to VR-Zone, has clarified Qualcomm’s plans for the Toq. In short, Qualcomm isn’t planning a wide-scale release of the Toq.

Instead, Stefanac said that Qualcomm’s Toq was built to demonstrate the potential of the Mirasol display, show off Qualcomm’s wireless charging tech, and inspire potential partners in developing their own devices based on Qualcomm’s tech.

“We’re not trying to compete in the smartwatch space. We made an announcement last week of the Qualcomm Toq to showcase some technologies,” he said. “We’re not getting into the B2C business. The idea is that we’re showcasing a use case for Mirasol, and wireless recharging.”

qualcomm TOQ

The Toq is going to have a limited release, which at this point could mean that Qualcomm will sell it themselves. It could also mean that Qualcomm won’t actually make very many to put up for sale, so don’t be surprised if you never get a chance to buy one.

Update: Qualcomm has issued a correction/response to that original interview:

A limited edition Qualcomm branded Toq smartwatch will be released for sale to consumers in the US in Q4 2013. We believe the Qualcomm Toq, featuring the Mirasol display technology, represents a unique selling proposition that consumers will embrace.

Our expectation is that the Qualcomm Toq will be the perfect showcase for how Qualcomm technologies can best meet the high expectations in this exciting new category. Qualcomm therefore expects to closely collaborate with traditional ecosystem participants and new entrants beyond this limited edition smartwatch to enable new product opportunities leveraging these industry-leading technologies, further driving forward the emerging wearables space.

This is a rather odd move for Qualcomm, and for that reason alone it’s worth noting. It doesn’t fit with their past practices.

Did you know that Qualcomm has a history of designing hardware and licensing to their partners? It’s called the Qualcomm Reference Design Program, and I have mentioned it before:

While Qualcomm is known for selling chips, they also have the development teams that can produce reference designs (both the hardware and the OS running on it). Remember the 4 Mirasol ereaders? Qualcomm designed them. Qualcomm also designed this Android tablet, this Windows tablet, and this smartphone (among many others).

Remember the unofficial Android OS firmware for the HP TouchPad? It came from one of Qualcomm’s divisions.

With all this technical know-how you have to wonder why Qualcomm didn’t sign a partner first and let them put their brand on the Toq. Smartwatches are a hot topic at the moment, and that means that it would probably be easy to find a partner.

I am betting that Qualcomm did show off the Toq privately and were turned down due to either pricing or production issues.

It probably wasn’t screen quality issues; the recent hands-on video of the Toq showed that its Mirasol screen had better color quality and viewing angles than that of the Mirasol eReaders. But I do think Qualcomm’s lack of a partner and limited production could still be a sign that they have not yet fixed the production issues that doomed the Mirasol eReader. Unfortunately I can’t prove this one way or another.

The Toq is expected out later this year with a retail of $300. It has a 1.55″ Mirasol screen with a resolution of 288×192, syncs to most Android devices via Bluetooth, and can charge wirelessly. The case doubles as a charging station for both the Toq and the integrated earbuds.



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