Qualcomm announced this week that it will license the IP (intellectual property) for USB-on-the-Go (OTG) from TransDimension. OTG is a portable supplement to the USB 2.0 specification that allows a peer-to-peer or direct connection among USB devices without a PC as intermediary.

When integrated into a handset, users would be able to connect their phones to USB printers, portable keyboards, CD-ROM drives, MP3 players, and digital cameras, among the hundreds of other USB devices now available.

In addition, a USB connection will give users the ability to synchronize mobile-phone data with handhelds as well as use the mobile-phone phone as a modem when attached to a handheld that does not have integrated wireless.

Device friendly Although most hardware devices require unique hardware specific drivers, USB divides peripherals into four classes: human input, audio, mass storage, and communications. Any device that includes one of these class drivers can talk directly to any device in that category using OTG, according to David Murray, vice president of marketing at TransDimension

The licensing deal will see Qualcomm include OTG technology as part of its standard 3G chipsets. The MSM6500 and MSM6250 Mobile Station Modem chipsets are for use in GSM, GPRS, WCDMA, and CDMA 2000 handsets.

With the exception of screen size and memory, mobile-phones may soon be as feature rich as any mobile handheld device.

The Qualcomm chipsets include a broad array of features including Secure Digital, voice recognition, 2D/3D graphics acceleration, MPEG-4 encoder/decoder, JPEG encoder/decoder, Bluetooth base band processor, and USB On-the-Go.

Currently, Qualcomm ships about 70 million CDMA chipsets per year, and estimates about 15 million will be 3G chipsets in the fourth quarter. The MSM6500 and MSM6250 chipsets will ship in the second quarter of 2003.

One industry analyst said that the prevalence of USB on most devices will bring greater standardization among peripherals.

"Bluetooth is an important connection technology but [OTG] makes it far easier for most of the device manufacturers to support," said David Hayden, president of MobileWeek.

TransDimension is shipping its OTG single-chip chipset solution now, which is currently incorporated into the Samsung Nexio device, a converged PDA and mobile-phone.

Murray believes that USB On-the-Go technology will compete directly, and favourably, with Bluetooth solutions, estimating that there are about 1.3 billion devices all ready enabled with USB.

"USB didn't take off until Intel supported it in its chipset. Qualcomm supporting USB On-the-Go in its chipset is the equivalent," Murray said.