Remembering Rob Pullen

2012-07-12 13:40:02
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Remembering Rob Pullen 
1:20 PM -- The news that Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) CEO Rob Pullen had died hit me very hard. Like everyone else, I knew Rob had been diagnosed with colon cancer and that he had recently stepped aside as CEO because of his health. But I had assumed he would survive this challenge because Rob seemed to be that guy who always kept going. I started covering telecom in 1985, the same year Rob joined Tellabs. I don't remember exactly when I first interviewed him, but I have a very clear memory of Rob once explaining to me -- a former sports writer who had never even taken high school physics -- how a digital cross-connect worked and why it was needed.Over the next two decades, he explained many other things to me, often using whatever paper was handy to draw a picture -- whether it was the back of press release, a page from my reporter's notebook or, on at least one occasion, a press room napkin. He didn't mind answering what were often stupid questions as I would attempt to understand a technology development and he enjoyed debating other issues, such how telephone companies would survive in the Internet era.We also managed to talk sports and kids, and we always managed to find things to laugh about -- sometimes Rob had to be reminded to get back to whatever Tellabs story he was supposed to be delivering.Rob was an easy guy to like, but he wasn't hung up on being likable. If you asked him a tough question, particularly about Tellabs' financials or future product direction, he didn't try to hide behind a friendly relationship to avoid answering. In other words, he wasn't one to duck the tough stuff. Over the years, he also voluntarily assumed other tough jobs, such as chairing the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).And he certainly has had his fair share of tough stuff to address since becoming the CEO of Tellabs. Tellabs had turned in many directions for leadership in the years before the company turned to Rob -- to me, he seemed like the natural CEO for the company's future because of his intelligence, his understanding of the industry and his close ties to Tellabs'ast. Unfortunately, we won't know how that part of Rob's story would have ended. But more importantly, his family, his many Tellabs colleagues and the telecom industry folks who've known him as I have, have lost a truly good guy. He will be greatly missed. 
Operator-Backed Firefox OS Gives HTML5 a Boost 
Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) have signed on to support Mozilla 's Firefox open mobile browser on phones with Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s Snapdragon chip on board. Mozilla has also signed on Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), Smart Telecom plc , Telecom Italia SpA (NYSE: TI), Telenor Mobil SA and Etisalat to support the Firefox OS, formerly known as “Boot to Gecko,” with the first phones expected early next year. (See OS Watch: Mozilla Getting WAC?)The partnership is aimed at giving the wireless operators a stake in the iOS-and-Android-dominated mobile OS ecosystem, but it should also give a boost to HTML5, the Web standard for browser apps.The advantage of the open-source technology is that it works on any handset, avoiding Android's pesky fragmentation problems, and it's in a Web language that most developers are already accustomed to.The technology has, however, been slow to take off -- ironically, because of fragmentation in the number of groups working on it, and because the apps simply haven't been able to perform as well as native ones to date. (See OpenWave Amps Up Browser Apps, Sprint Tackles Browser-Based Apps and Skyfire Sets Sights on iPad, Carriers.)But, Qualcomm execs think this is the year when that will begin to change. Speaking at the chipmaker's annual developers' conference last week, CEO Paul Jacobs said that within this year, 80 percent of websites will be developing in HTML5 for mobile, and IDC forecasts that 80 percent of mobile apps will use HTML5 by 2013.One way Qualcomm is vowing to help reach these projections is by opening up application programming interfaces (APIs) so developers can build richer apps for the mobile OS.Some of the APIs it's already unlocked include access to the phone's camera, a filing system for APIs and screen-orientation lock. Sy Choudury, Qualcomm senior director of product management, said geo-fencing capabilities and sensors are next. Most of the functionality is designed to mimic what native apps are capable of, but he said that running them on the Web lets users run multiple apps at once, stream rich Web audio and view complex animations."Starting this year, we're seeing good representation of the processing performance in devices," Choudury said. "Even our lowest-tier processors can run HTML5 as well as our highest-tier processors did three years ago." And, that’s a good thing, because the devices running the Firefox OS will be on the lower tier to begin with. ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) and TCL & Alcatel Mobile Phones Ltd. will launch entry-level phones with the browser on board in early 2013.Choudury said that other OEMs will start baking the APIs into their devices in the fall and the next generation of HTML5 apps will follow soon after.
Rumor: Qualcomm to Buy Small-Cell Specialist 
Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) is in the final stages of acquiring small-cell chipset specialist DesignArt Networks , according to an industry source.According to Light Reading Mobile's source, the price of the deal for the Israel-based company is expected to be US$80 million, plus up to $20 million more depending on post-acquisition performance.DesignArt specializes in system-on-chip (SoC) technology and software platforms for LTE small cells that have integrated backhaul capabilities. The acquisition would signal that Qualcomm wants to make a bigger push into small cells, particularly those that can be deployed for public access to boost mobile data capacity. (See Small-Cell Startup Goes Big On Backhaul and Chip Startup Spurs Small-Cell Backhaul .)Founded in 2006, DesignArt has not disclosed how much funding it has raised to date from its investors Carmel Ventures , Magma Venture Partners and Motorola Solutions Venture Capital (formerly Motorola Ventures).The acquisition, should it be completed, would be the latest in a wave of small-cell chipset consolidation deals: Mindspeed Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: MSPD) acquired Picochip for $51.8 million in January this year; and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) bought Percello Ltd. for $86 million in October 2010 as well as microwave backhaul startup Provigent Inc. for $313 million in March 2011. (See Mindspeed Snaps Up Picochip for $51.8M, Broadcom to Buy Femto Chip Startup for $86M and Broadcom Buys Into Microwave Backhaul.)
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