Summary:

The Qualcomm Innovation Center today announced it has purchased iSkoot, a San Francisco-based startup that offers mobile application services primarily to feature phones. With the acquisition, Qualcomm can feed feature phones with data-friendly proxy services, RSS, email, VoIP functions, real-time notifications and social networking software.

iskoot-feature-phones

The Qualcomm Innovation Center (QuIC) today said it has purchased iSkoot, a San Francisco-based startup that offers mobile application services primarily to feature phones, for an undisclosed price. iSkoot launched in 2005 and provides a service through its Kalaida Platform, which optimizes wireless data prior to sending it to handsets. iSkoot will be a subsidiary of the QuIC, which in turn is a subsidiary of Qualcomm.

The iSkoot acquisition could position Qualcomm well for the future. Although the company is primary known for building baseband radio chips and processors that power mobile phones — most of the newest Android phones today use the Qualcomm Snapdragon application processor, for example — hardware alone doesn’t guarantee a successful future. Neither does software, for that matter, as Qualcomm is simply buying the assets of iSkoot, indicating that iSkoot as a company faced a difficult market and that Qualcomm believes it can better manage or implement the services.

In terms of those assets, iSkoot has a wide variety of software services to offer through its Kalaida product: E-mail, RSS, social networking and instant messaging can all be aggregated through proxy servers for feature phones. iSkoot also has the ability to deliver real-time notifications to feature phones, which is typically a smartphone-only function. Today, iSkoot powers the social networking apps offered on basic handsets from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile here in the U.S.

In the news release this morning, Rob Chandhok, president of QuIC, points out the various options that Qualcomm can bring to feature phones for carriers and handset makers through the acquisition.

QuIC’s acquisition of iSkoot provides us with a push data services platform, a social network aggregation solution and voice 2.0 services that dramatically strengthens our ability to continue providing the most effective mobile solutions for operators and device makers as they serve consumers worldwide.

Although today’s press release doesn’t specifically mention it, Qualcomm is also gaining VoIP-type experience through this purchase: in January 2009, iSkoot began offering Skype services to mobiles and landed 3, a 3G mobile service provider in the UK, as a client. Since that time, Skype has limited similar opportunities by working with specific top-tier carriers to offer such service. However, Qualcomm could find a way to parlay prior VoIP efforts into a value-add or other standalone service with secondary carriers, especially with MVNOs or regional carriers that primarily offer feature phones.

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