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Steven Altman

Qualcomm banks on the smartphone craze

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Steven Altman, vice chairman of Qualcomm Inc. and a member of Qualcomm’s executive committee, provides direction and guidance on key initiatives across all areas of the business, as well as on overall vision and strategy.

On Nov. 7, 2012, the San Diego-based chipmaker (Nasdaq: QCOM) reported a 20 percent jump in fiscal fourth-quarter earnings. Its profit of $1.27 billion for the quarter ended Sept. 30, or 73 cents a share, was up from $1.06 billion, or 62 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue spiked 18 percent to $4.87 billion, which can be attributed to the rising popularity of smartphones.

About 5 billion cumulative sales of smart phones are expected between 2012 and 2016, said Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm's CEO and chairman, at the annual analysts' meeting in mid-November 2012.

“Technology is spread so widely around the world, it’s bringing people online and improving standards of living,” Jacobs said.

One place Qualcomm has long put dollars is paying off: in Snapdragon processors. Qualcomm tripled its shipments quarter-over-quarter for its new dual-core MSM8960 system-on-chip as demand for its integrated application processors grew.

“It’s powering a lot of recent flagship devices that are out there,” Jacobs said. “We are really trying to follow a different approach than anyone else, making sure we are as innovative as possible.”

Altman joined Qualcomm in 1989 and was the chief architect of the company’s strategy for licensing its broad intellectual property portfolio for wireless communications, which has accelerated the growth of CDMA technology.

In that role, he was responsible for structuring and negotiating Qualcomm’s license agreements, joint ventures and strategic relationships.

Under Altman’s leadership, the company has entered into domestic and international licensing agreements with the world's largest telecommunications and electronics companies.

As consumers expect their phones to keep doing more, that opens up opportunities across a large number of sectors.

“We really are focused on where are areas we need to continue to drive innovation in smartphones,” Jacobs said. “Ways to take [research and development] dollars and invest in areas that create separation between us and competition.”

Altman began his career with the San Diego law firm of Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye (which later become DLA Piper), where he specialized in intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, securities and general corporate matters.

He joined Qualcomm in 1989 as corporate counsel with responsibility for licensing and contracts, quickly moving up through the management ranks and becoming vice president and general counsel in 1992.

He became general manager of QTL when that organization was formed in 1995; and senior vice president in 1996. In 1998, Altman was named executive vice president; and president of QTL in 2000. From 2005 to 2011, Altman served as the president of Qualcomm where his leadership and contributions helped enable the company’s growth, evolution and expansion.

Altman graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in police science and administration, and he received his Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1986.

Altman serves as chairman of the University of California at San Diego Health Sciences Advisory Board. He also serves on the board of directors for CONNECT.

As a former board member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, he remains an active supporter of the JDRF and numerous other charitable causes.

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