Qualcomm sees smartphones pushing demand toward end of year

The company has also cut its forecast for 2012 cellular device shipments, citing economic woes

Qualcomm has lowered its forecast of global cellular device shipments for 2012 due to a gloomy economic outlook, though it expects device sales to surge in the fourth quarter because of upcoming products, a likely reference to Apple's iPhone and Microsoft's Windows 8 tablets.

The mobile chip company reported results for its fiscal third quarter on Wednesday, posting revenue and profit up significantly from a year earlier but down from the previous quarter. Revenue hit US$4.63 billion, up 28 percent year over year and down 6 percent sequentially, while earnings per share were $0.69, up 13 percent from a year earlier and down 46 percent from the previous quarter.

Citing more cautious forecasts by economists, Qualcomm said it was lowering its forecast for global shipments of 3G and 4G devices in the current calendar year to between 875 million and 935 million. But that outcome would still represent an increase of 14 percent from 2011, assuming the results come in at the midpoint of the forecast, the company said.

Qualcomm is also pushing back its expectations for 3G/4G device sales to the last quarter of the year. Shipments will rise with new products being launched for the end-of-year holiday season, the company said, presumably a reference to the iPhone and Windows 8 devices. Qualcomm supplies a dual-mode GSM/CDMA cellular modem chip for the current iPhone and is expected to provide parts for the upcoming iPhone 5. The company also expects to supply components for Windows 8 devices. Both are expected in the latter part of the year.

"We're looking forward to an exciting portfolio of device launches for the holiday season and are anticipating a strong December quarter on the semiconductor front and believe we are well-positioned for the opportunities ahead," said Steve Mollenkopf, president and chief operating officer, on a conference call to discuss the financial results.

Despite the lower forecast of unit sales for the year, Qualcomm expects the average selling price of 3G/4G devices to rise from 2011. For the year 2012, it expects an average selling price between $216 and $222, an increase of $7 from the prior year if measured from the midpoint of the forecast, Qualcomm said. It cited higher average selling prices in multiple regions.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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