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Qualcomm scoots into mobile software with iSkoot acquisition

Qualcomm, which manufactures chipsets for some of today’s most popular smartphones, is making a move into software development with its acquisition of mobile app developer iSkoot today.

iSkoot gives Qualcomm a way to package various social networking and website feeds on remote servers and ship them off to phones in a less data-intensive way. The process — similar to “push” notifications in most smartphones today that send alerts to phones instead of the actual data — should cut down on the strain on wireless networks, something valued by the wireless carriers and network operators who are Qualcomm’s customers.

iSkoot has been working for a while on making cheap phones smarter, a goal which should be advanced by Qualcomm’s broad set of customers in the wireless business.

The acquisition carries an implicit acknowledgment of the changing mobile landscape, where lines are blurring between software, hardware, and network providers. Companies can’t stick exclusively to hardware, as Nokia has shown with its slow decay. Nor can companies develop software exclusively, as Microsoft had earlier shown with its weaker Windows Mobile platform.

The most successful mobile companies work on both the hardware and the software. Apple manufactures its own chipset, the Apple A4 processor, and its own phone in addition to providing the software for it. Microsoft, with its new Windows Phone 7 platform, closesly specifies the hardware device makers must use. And Research in Motion — which produces the BlackBerry, its accompanying operating system, and crucial messaging services — still remains one of the most successful enterprise mobile platforms.

More broadly, hardware makers like Cisco and Intel have aggressively added to their software holdings, most recently with Intel’s $7.7 billion purchase of security software maker McAfee.

San Francisco, Calif.-based iSkoot was acquired by the Qualcomm Innovation Center, a subsidiary of Qualcomm. Founded in 2005, iSkoot began offering its aggregated social networking features in 2009, and has some experience with services that transmit voice data over the internet with its Skype applications developed in 2006.

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