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Qualcomm Wants a Piece of Your Future Car

When it comes to the car of the future, CEO Steve Mollenkopf is unequivocal.

“If you think about all of the implications of the smart, connected car,” Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said on Tuesday, trailing off, “for us, it’s significant.”

No kidding. The San Diego chipmaker, which last year announced that it would acquire NXP Semiconductor for an eye-popping $ 47 billion, is making significant moves to meet the opportunity. But Mollenkopf, typically understated, was unequivocal speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s D.Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif.

He said Qualcomm wanted a piece of the car of the future. A big piece.

“There’s a big change in the architecture of the car. The car is getting smarter,” Mollenkopf said, outlining how once-disparate connected technologies were consolidating into a smart automotive system of subsystems. “We want to have a piece of all of those subsystems…which is really what we do best as a company. We solve systems problems as technology changes.”

The devil is in the details, of course. Mollenkopf acknowledged that “delivering technology into the car is different than delivering technology into the smartphone or PC” and comes with its own challenges. And there are broader cultural challenges we’re only beginning to understand.

“The industry isn’t thinking far enough ahead in terms of the implications of having a car connected and smart,” Mollenkopf said. “And ‘connected’ not just in terms of the Internet but connected to other cars.”

Plus, “electrification will allow new entrants to come into the car space,” he said.

Why should Qualcomm’s rivals—among them Intel, Samsung, and Nokia, depending on the category—be concerned with the company’s automotive ambitions? Because the car is arguably the next big device platform, and it’s a gold rush to secure a place in an enormous, albeit nascent, opportunity.

Mollenkopf is optimistic. There’s room for everyone, he seems to suggest: “There’s going to continue to be a large period of innovation for a long period of time.”


Is Steven Soderbergh's New App the Future of TV?

Director Steven Soderbergh—the man behind Magic Mike, The Knick, and this summer’s Logan Lucky—just released the trailer for his latest project. He made it with the help of HBO, but it’s not a movie or TV show. Instead, Mosaic is an interactive narrative app that will be available for free download in November. Co-written by Ed Solomon, it’s a murder mystery starring Sharon Stone that lets viewers click through a growing web of “chapters,” deciding how the homicide investigation unfolds. This isn’t a novel idea; creators have been experimenting with branching narratives for decades without garnering much popular interest. But it also might be just the right concept at just the right time: Perhaps mainstream audiences are finally ready to adventure beyond the familiarity of linear stories.

Mosaic’s marketing slogan is, “A new storytelling experience that lets you choose your own path.” But, as Soderbergh told the audience at last weekend’s Future of Storytelling Festival in New York, hearing people call it a “choose your own adventure” story makes him cringe. Sure, viewers are presented with two possible scenes following each chapter, but they can only choose the order of the scenes they watch and which character to follow, not the action in the scenes themselves. Mosaic’s is a fixed universe, viewers just get to discover it in their own way. In Soderbergh’s view, it’s more like a film than a television series, but it’s likely that, since most people will experience it on their phones, they’ll watch it in chunks like they do TV.

Soderbergh may never make another interactive story app, yet he seems certain that Mosaic is an early iteration of a form about to take off. “I referred to it as our cave painting,” he said, “because I look at it now and think, ‘Somebody’s gonna take this thing and really run with it.’” He’s probably right. Thanks to the hype around virtual reality, audiences—and studios and networks—have a newfound interest in different, and especially interactive, forms of storytelling. With Soderbergh and HBO willing to go all in on an interactive app, the probability that other experiments in entertainment will find their audience (and their funders) increases exponentially.

What those experiments will yield, though, is (ahem) another story. So far, a lot of mainstream Hollywood’s adoption of interactive storytelling has come in the form of VR experiences tied to shows and films. Those things are fine for marketing, but don’t really push things forward. During Future of Storytelling, which is meant to exhibit and incubate the cutting-edge in narrative media, VR experiences for TV’s Silicon Valley and Rick and Morty drew audiences while the Mr. Robot VR experience from 2016 sat canonized inside a nearly empty “Classics” tent. The fest also featured a preview of the forthcoming Mr. Robot Alexa skill, which gives the impression that your Amazon Echo has been hacked by the show’s revolutionary cyber-gang F Society. If anything, they demonstrated a willingness to embrace new narratives, if not a clear idea of how to do so.

What those experiments will yield, though, is another story. Much of mainstream Hollywood’s adoption of interactive storytelling has come in the form of VR experiences tied to shows and films. Those things are fine for marketing, but don’t really push things forward.

“It’s not that I want the audience to decide what’s going to happen to the characters,” Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail said, referencing Soderbergh’s work with Mosaic. “But it would be amazing to have a form of storytelling where you’re continually reframing what you think is going on.”

Figuring out what to do with interactive narratives comes coupled with figuring out where audiences will want to interact with them. In Future of Storytelling’s exhibition setting, attendees mostly stumbled around in VR, while volunteers shouted directions at them. “Now grab the beer bottle,” yelled one at a Silicon Valley installation, watching the person’s headset view on a monitor. “Closer… closer… OK now throw it! Huh, it usually breaks.” Not exactly the definition of “immersion.” Eventually, more homes will have VR rigs, allowing fans to find their way through these stories on their own. In the meantime, though, they’re stuck navigating them at conferences and friend’s houses.

Steven Soderbergh and Elvis Mitchell discuss Mosaic at Future of Storytelling 2017.

Courtesy Future of Storytelling

That ease of adoption is what makes Mosaic, and any who follow its lead, so interesting: It’s on smartphones, so the barrier to entry is low. It’s also an original story being presented by a major cable network, not an experience to enhance one of its shows. That’s likely no accident. Soderbergh, for his part, is a VR cynic. In August, he told Film Comment “as a narrative space, VR is never going to work.” For Mosaic, he claims he was adamant that the story have integrity and not just be used to “prop up technology”—surely a jab at the current state of VR content. He’s backing that up. After releasing the app, he and HBO will release the story it as a linear six-part miniseries in January 2018, likely one of the first—if not the first—times a television show has accompanied an app, rather than the other way around.

Judging from the short clips shown to the festival audience, Soderbergh’s latest project won’t disappoint. Whether the format will be able to keep audiences engaged, though, remains to be seen. Soothsayers have predicted ill-fated storytelling revolutions before, leaving many an exquisite corpse in their wake. But if Soderbergh has, indeed, found the magic moment—the perfect time to introduce Hollywood-quality interactive stories to the world—then TV viewers will soon have a lot more adventures to choose from.


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