The folks at Qualcomm Corp. are doing some interesting stuff down in San Diego.
The chip maker’s FLO TV division, known for providing MediaFLO TV service for cell phones, unveiled FLO TV Personal Television, a mini digital TV this week. This isn’t a prototype but a working 3.5-inch TV that will be available this Christmas.
It’s unusual for a chipmaker to offer a product straight to consumers. Intel may be inside many computers, but the company doesn’t really sell a gadget of its own. Neither does Irvine’s Broadcom Corp., which has its chips in iPhones and other cell phones, Internet TVs, set top boxes and Wi-Fi routers.
But for Qualcomm, it’s not the first time the chip maker has wanted to deal with consumers directly. Last year, it was showing off its own netbook-ish computer powered by company made chips. The Qualcomm SmartBook seems to be going the Intel route, however, with Qualcomm offering its chips to PC makers.
How does it get TV? Qualcomm bought and built its own wireless network so the TV receives live and broadcasts over the air. Technically, Qualcomm is using airwaves that were once filled with analog TV broadcasts. But after the government transitioned the nation to digital TV back in June, that spectrum became available for commercial use. Qualcomm has been working on this for years, says Melinda Hutcheon, with Qualcomm.
“The FLO TV Personal TV is running over a purpose-built dedicated network for television, not any cellular network,” she said. “Qualcomm purchased channel 55 several years ago and with the recent DTV the 700mhz spectrum block is now clear and FLO TV can provide a nationwide mobile TV network in the US.”
But this is not quite over-the-air TV. Users can’t just turn on the gadget and watch regular prime-time TV. Users must pay for the service, just as they do for FLO TV on a cell phone. Qualcomm’s subscription fees for the TV start at $8.99 per month. The device itself is $249.99. Battery lasts five hours of active viewing, 300 hours in standby mode.
FLO TV has agreements to provide a lot of familiar TV shows to customers. Brands that have agreements with Qualcomm include CNBC, Comedy Central, MSNBC, MTV, NBC, NBC 2Go, NBC News, NBC Sports and Nickelodeon.
The company also made a deal to get FLO TV into automobiles with distributor Audiovox Corp. The feature will be available as an add-on before the end of the year.
All images were provided by Qualcomm.
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