Step Inside the Qualcomm Concept Car with CMO Don McGuire – Futurum Tech Webcast

Step Inside the Qualcomm Concept Car with CMO Don McGuire - Futurum Tech Webcast

On this episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast, host Daniel Newman welcomes Qualcomm’s CMO, Don McGuire, during the IAA Mobility Event in Munich, for an inside look at the Qualcomm Snapdragon concept car, their partnership ecosystem, and what the future holds at the upcoming Snapdragon Summit.

Their discussion covers:

  • The new Qualcomm Snapdragon concept car, right on the show floor of IAA Mobility
  • The convergence of tech in the automotive space and how Qualcomm’s partnership ecosystem is growing
  • Some of the biggest trends at IAA from sustainability to software
  • What brings companies like Qualcomm and AWS to an automotive show
  • ​​A look at what’s coming up from Qualcomm at their Snapdragon Summit 2023 event

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Daniel Newman: Hey everyone, welcome to IAA Mobility 2023. I’m Daniel Newman. I’m here at the Qualcomm Snapdragon concept car, and I’m joined today by chief marketing officer Don McGuire, a regular here on the Futurum Tech podcast. Don, you and I have talked many times before, but I think this is the first time we’ve brought you on video and done it from the cockpit of the new Snapdragon vehicle. Is that what you call it, the Snapdragon concept car?

Don McGuire: Yeah, it’s the Snapdragon concept car. It’s really a showcase for all of our amazing technology that’s really defining the software defined vehicle. Telling people what you do and how you do it is great, lots of PowerPoint slides, but really showing people is oftentimes more effective. So I’m one of those more show less tell kind of people. And so we invested in building an actual concept car with an amazing concept car company here in Germany, and now we can showcase all of the amazing Snapdragon Digital Chassis technologies that drivers can look forward to in the future and that our OEM partners can deploy throughout all of their vehicles.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it’s really exciting. As someone that’s personally a car guy, you could call me, and being a technology person as well, it is fun to see the convergence of all the tech here at IAA Mobility, everything from semiconductor manufacturers, software companies, automotives. But we’ve seen this just forcing function that is brought together, really companies that would never be considered car companies. Over the last few years, you’re seeing companies like Amazon and Apple, Qualcomm, being really big in automotive, and then at the same time you’re seeing all the OEMs, many of which are your partners, are really coming out and saying, “We are technology companies. We are driving the future.” And a lot of cases, by the way, underneath that is Snapdragon.

Don McGuire: Right. Actually, we bring a lot of technology cred to the automotive ecosystem, and as their focus shifts to cars as the new living space or bringing compute into the way the car actually runs and operates more so than mechanics, really the Snapdragon Digital Chassis and all of our platforms are most of the time across pretty much virtually every car manufacturer around the world is what’s powering it. So it’s pretty amazing.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, it is pretty exciting. And as I just look around the show floor here, I see Mercedes. By the way, killer concept car. Did you see their concept car?

Don McGuire: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: Now, you guys have a pretty substantial relationship with Mercedes that’s grown. I think you’re providing them technology, you’re sponsoring their F1 team, so that’s a good place to start. What does the partnership ecosystem look like between Qualcomm and these big automotive OEMs? What’s driving the partnership and what does a strong partnership look like?

Don McGuire: Well, there’s things that we’re doing as we move further and further into automotive, like our Formula One partnership. And what we believe is our F1 partnership with Mercedes Petronas AMG is really about as we start bringing cars to life through Snapdragon platforms and more and more of them hit the road across multiple brands that are relevancy in F1 being the proving ground for a lot of new auto tech. Because if you’ve been in an F1 car, if you’ve seen F1 teams or if you’ve watched F1, whether it’s on Drive to Survive or actually at a race, you see that oftentimes F1 is where new auto technology starts, and then it manifests itself into passenger vehicles and things like that.

So our relationship with the Mercedes team and our participation in F1 is really important to, not only now in the story we’re telling around automotive, but as we continue to evolve in the future and delivering more and more state-of-the-art tech, oftentimes we can do a lot of collaboration with the F1 team and then look to bring that technology forward into commercial and consumer vehicles.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, the F1 relationship is really on the front of what’s happening, Don, in the world. You look at what they’re doing in terms of electrification and sustainability, by the way, that’s a lot of horsepower they’re able to get out of sub two liter engines, but it’s also always indicative of what’s possible, meaning how much horsepower and low utilization of fuel, efficiency in the battery, and these are the kind of trend lines. And that was something I was going to ask you about. What are the trend lines? For me, I’ve got a few, and if you miss any of them. I’ll bring them up, but what are the IAA overall trendlines that you see this year, just walking around, hit the floor, and then talking to all the partners?

Don McGuire: Well, one is this idea of the software defined vehicle, is that software is really going to define future experiences, how the car operates from electrification all the way through to charging, all the way through to how the car responds to you as the driver, what type of experiences the passengers will have in the future, how the car interacts with its environment around it, not just within it. So all of those, I think, are trends. And there’s a lot of stuff happening today, but it’s really exciting about what’s happening tomorrow and going into the future as this idea of software-defined vehicles becomes a reality. And we’re really excited about that.

We’re also taking this idea, not just to four wheel vehicles, but we’re also taking this and expanding it to two and three wheel vehicles as well. Because around the world, cars are prevalent, but there’s also big markets around the world where the main mode of transportation is not on four wheels. So taking the idea of the digital chassis and bringing it into two wheel and three wheel types of vehicles, scooters, motorcycles, even e-bikes, is a way to extend this idea of software defineness into all modes of transportation.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, the urban mobility movement is substantial. I’m walking around the floor here, and would you fly in one of those drones? I’ve seen them in a few places on here, and I look at them and I’m trying to make that decision in real time. Would you do that?

Don McGuire: New technology is always scary to people. I’ll use this analogy, when the elevator was first invented, nobody would ride on it because they were afraid it was going to plummet, and so they just kept taking the stairs. So I think these new ideas, I think, will eventually take on as they’re proven safe and as more and more people are the guinea pigs for it. Yeah, I think there’ll be a day when I’ll probably hop into a flying drone and get from point A to point B. Sure.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think we’ll end up getting there together at some point. When I’m at these events and I can’t get from here to the hotel, five miles in less than two hours.

Don McGuire: It’s a great idea.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. By the way, F1 helicopter’s the best, just saying. The best. You have to book it well in advance. So you guys had a bunch of other partnerships, though. One of the ones that was very interesting to me too was AWS. So talk about that a little bit, because I don’t think a lot of people really think about, one, a company like AWS being involved in vehicles as a whole, two, with Qualcomm sort of being focused historically more on device and edge, people always think of AWS as cloud. So what brings partnerships in companies like Qualcomm and AWS here at an automotive show?

Don McGuire: Well, if you look at the components that make up the digital chassis, we have our cockpit platforms, we have our connectivity platforms, and one of the platforms we have is our car to cloud services platform. And that’s where partnerships with the likes of AWS and Salesforce and others come into play because we need to drive and build for our OEM customers, our car manufacturer customers, the ability to provide upgradeability, new services to their drivers, to their customers. And that all is something that emanates from the car to the cloud and back. And the only way we’re going to deliver on this new idea of upgradeability and longevity is by connecting these cars to the cloud. And so, partnerships are really important to have with the hyperscalers, AWS being one of them. So we’re excited about, not only our ongoing partnership with them, but the announcements we made here at the show with AWS and what we’re doing with AWS and BMW around car to cloud and ADA, so pretty exciting.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, so the automotive industry has always been sort of bifurcated by big global brands that everybody knows, meaning the BMWs, Mercedes, all your partners. Behind it has historically been these tier one, two OEM partners that are largely unknown. You guys made an acquisition not too long ago of one of them. The average person probably had never heard of it even though it was a multi-billion dollar business. How does a company like Qualcomm build a brand and notoriety in this industry? Because I think that’s one of the biggest keys, Don, your job is a big one here, you’re already doing it with the OEMs themselves, but having customers walk into a dealership and say, “I want the car that has the Snapdragon stuff in it.” What’s the work for someone like you to make sure that that lands and people are walking into dealerships saying, “Give me that one.”

Don McGuire: Give me that one. Well, that will be the absolute ideal, if I could drive that sort of pull. We do it in other product categories today. We do it in smartphone categories where we do have consumers in certain markets around the world asking for, “Is this phone powered by Snapdragon?” I think we’re going to drive that into PC, we’re going to drive that into XR, into wearables, and that’s well on its way. For the car, that would be the ideal. We’re already working with some of our partners where our partners are starting to give us credit. Because, again, historically car companies are not technology companies, they’re car companies. And so, as they become more technology focused and as cars become filled with all sorts of technology, we bring that street cred, we bring that tech cred, to these partners. And so, the ones that we’ve been working with that have embraced that, we’re joint storytelling together and we’re co-marketing together.

Like in the case of Cadillac. We just participated in the launch of the new Escalade, which is an amazing new EV that is completely powered by the Snapdragon Digital Chassis. And we were on stage with them in spirit and in commentary. The brand was used in their keynote. We had demo stations and we did a lot of digital and social content creation between myself and Melissa Grady, who’s the amazing CMO of Cadillac. So that’s another example of how we’re working together.

Since Covid and with the chip shortage, more and more car manufacturers are wanting to have a direct relationship with the technology companies that are actually making the technology that’s going into the cars. So the whole multi-tiered supply chain that has historically been the auto industry is changing. And so these tier ones, tier twos, or tier threes, that is kind of auto speak for the different people involved in the value chain, that is collapsing. And we’re on that fortunate recipient side of that because-

Daniel Newman: You’re the beneficiary.

Don McGuire: … we’re the beneficiary because they want to have a direct relationship with the people who are building these amazing platforms, and that’s us. So I think that’s great for the future as more and more technology is enveloped into vehicles, and it really sets up the future. It speaks to our pipeline, it speaks to our success so far we’ve had in automotive and our continued success in automotive.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Tesla, and I know there’s a continuum of opinions about the company, but they did create-

Don McGuire: We won’t talk about that.

Daniel Newman: They created a bit of an awareness to the fact that… Because Tesla really is a software company. It’s the tablet. Everything else is just… They make a lot of really, what I think, simple looking vehicles. And what I guess I mean by that is we did discover that if you lead with tech and you build around it, you can build quite an empire in this space. So it’s pretty interesting how it’s developing.

Don McGuire: Yeah, clearly. And they had the advantage of starting from scratch. They didn’t have a legacy business. So that’s oftentimes easier, because you don’t have to reimagine anything. You just imagine something. And so oftentimes that is easier than having to reinvent or change behaviors in the way you do things from a business that’s been around for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Another thing that’s really interesting that’s going on is the Chinese. The Chinese automakers, not as startupy as Tesla or not as ground white paper as Tesla or clean sheet of paper as Tesla has been, but quick to innovate. And I think it’s cultural. We see that in our smartphone ecosystem in China. Innovation cycle’s super fast. We’re seeing the same with the Chinese automakers, innovation cycle super fast, delivering experiences at a fervent pace, and coming up with really amazing ideas to deliver new experiences for drivers in these vehicles.

And you see the explosion of different brands. You see Chinese making acquisitions like Geely of brands like Volvo, and you see actually the growth of these Chinese brands into other markets. I was in Milan over the weekend for F1, and I saw a massive BYD showroom right next to the Duomo in Milan, and you would not have seen that five years ago or even two years ago. So the Chinese are coming and it’s pretty amazing what they’re doing with regards to the software defined vehicle.

Daniel Newman: All right, so we are here at IAA, but I want to borrow you to talk about something else that’s coming up in the future.

Don McGuire: Sure.

Daniel Newman: I’ll be at the Snapdragon Summit. We’re going to go to Hawaii. We’re going to bring some economic stimulus.

Don McGuire: We are.

Daniel Newman: A very unfortunate set of circumstances there and I guess it timed out well that we could bring such an event, or that Qualcomm can bring such an event. I can bring myself. But it is a big moment. I listened to your earnings call this quarter. Christiano had to have mentioned maybe two, possibly three different times, on that call that this is going to be a big moment for the company’s AI reveal. Can you tease at all how the company’s going to have a breakthrough and anything that may happen at Summit, or just a tease of what’s going to happen at the event?

Don McGuire: Sure. Well, Snapdragon Summit has become literally all things Snapdragon. And so, we will be making several platform announcements across different product categories, next generation types of platform announcements with some amazing improvements and evolution of our platforms. So that’s one exciting thing.

And then there’ll be a thread that you’ll see across the entire three days, and that is around AI. And not just GenAI, which is the hype cycle right now, but AI in general. Because AI has been actually happening in the background for about 10 years now, and we’ve been actually focused on delivering AI experiences for about 10 years now. So bringing that to the forefront, adding the GenAI component to it or icing around it is something that you should look forward to seeing in a big way at Snapdragon Summit, as we continue to tell our AI story and where we fit into the AI ecosystem, because we’re an important player. If you look at AI as a continuum from the cloud all the way up here, all the way through to the device, we’re going to be playing in a very substantial portion of that AI ecosystem, and we’ll be talking about that. And we have partner after partner after partner. I’m not going to reveal who they are and spoil the surprise.

Daniel Newman: Oh, come on.

Don McGuire: Some big amazing names and CEOs of many different companies that are participating this year, and all of which are our partners. So we’re excited about that as well. And we’re really looking at all three days being distinctive. In the past when we’ve had Summit, day one’s been sort of the big reveal, and then day two has been sort of the deep dives and then day three has been reserved for things like benchmarking and some other things. We have actually three distinctive agendas this year, so every day is as important as the other day.
And so we’re really excited about the format changeup as well. And I’ll, again, save some of the surprise for the actual event. But looking forward to actually putting our best foot forward for Snapdragon, the brand, the products, at Summit in Hawaii. And you mentioned Maui, which is where we hold our event. We’re super, super cognizant about the people of Maui, what they’ve been through, about Lahaina. Lahaina is the cultural center of Hawaii. It was the capital of the kingdom, and there are things that have been devastated that cannot be replaced.

And so, we’ve taken lots of steps from macro donations through the Red Cross to using local vendors and bringing local vendors into our event to give them business from an economic growth and recovery perspective to picking places where we can actually participate with just volunteerism and human power while we’re all there on the island. We’re looking at our support for Maui in different vectors, or along different vectors, because Maui and Hawaii have become synonymous with Summit. It’s a part of what Summit is, and we feel like we need to give back to that, because Snapdragon Summit is part of Hawaii, and Hawaii is part of Snapdragon Summit. So we’re really looking forward to bringing business, which we know they need, but doing it in a very conscientious way and lending our support to the island of Maui and helping it recover.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s really a great thing to hear. I always love going there, and I’ve actually taken my family to some of those spots, and it was so sad to see what happened. So it is really, really great to be able to give back. I appreciate the run through, Don, and the overview of everything. Important question, as the AMG Petronas Mercedes, when can somebody unseat Max? Can Mercedes be the ones to do it in that team, you think, this year?

Don McGuire: I’m a strong believer. I might be biased, but I’m a strong believer in Toto and his team to figure it out. They were on top for a really long time, and so I believe that they’ve got the know-how, they definitely have the competitive spirit, and they’ve got the drivers. So the recipe is there. They just need a little bit more tweaking to the car, and I think-

Daniel Newman: I’ve seen it happen, a weekend can change everything and a couple of upgrades and suddenly-

Don McGuire: And we need that for F1. It can’t just be Max, Max, Max, Max, Max because then it’ll get boring anyway.

Daniel Newman: It feels that way.

Don McGuire: So we need it to be shaken up, and it seems like when you watch an F1 race these days, the real excitement is between fourth and fifth or third and fourth or fifth and sixth or whatever. It’s not like who’s going to win because everybody knows. That’s not sustainable.

Daniel Newman: Everybody loves a winner until they win too much.

Don McGuire: Until they win too much. And then it’s boring. And especially in the US, Americans love the “Any Given Sunday” concept, right?

Daniel Newman: Yes.

Don McGuire: Anyone can beat anyone at any given time. We love that because that’s competition, that’s surprise, that makes things interesting. And F1 needs a little more of that, I think.

Daniel Newman: Oh, absolutely. Well listen, so much going on in the automotive space, definitely excited to watch the continued evolution here, Don, of Qualcomm and Snapdragon in the vehicle. The innovation around AI, big themes here going on at the event, and of course, it’s good to see Qualcomm. It’s probably been the most notable part of your business over the past several quarters and one of the most exciting. Now, again, you get all of it, you’ve got to handle all of it, but it’s nice to have this diversification when devices are having a bit of a harder time. Automotive is an area that’s still growing, and of course the opportunity to make this brand known to the world as part of the automotive ecosystem is something I’m really excited to watch you try to do because it’s your job, right?

Don McGuire: Yeah, it’s my job, and it’s a great challenge. I have the distinct pleasure of building both the Snapdragon and the Qualcomm brand with their respective audiences, and building Snapdragon Automotive is going to be an exciting journey. We’re just getting started, but I think we have a lot of room to grow and a lot of progress to be made.

Daniel Newman: All right, Don McGuire, Chief Marketing Officer, Qualcomm, thanks for sitting down with me for the Futurum Tech podcast. We’ll do it again soon, I’m sure.

Don McGuire: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Dan.

Daniel Newman: Always.

Don McGuire: Good to see you.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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