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Celebs boost Qualcomm’s CES first keynote

Guillermo del Toro, Alice Eve, Maroon 5, Steve Ballmer on hand

Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs faced a big challenge when he accepted the opening keynote position at CES this year. To date, only two people had taken the stage — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

So Jacobs brought an eclectic group of bold-faced names to help him out, including Big Bird, helmer Guillermo del Toro, “Star Trek Into Darkness'” Alice Eve, NASCAR champ Brad Keselowski, Maroon 5, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in a move meant to serve as a ceremonial passing of the torch.

The keynote, which was designed to show off the versatility of Qualcomm’s underlying Snapdragon technology in mobile devices, shied away from a lot of technical details and focused more on pop culture, but the company did announce its next generation chip, which it says boasts a 75% performance increase over its predecessor.

However, the celebs in attendance nearly overshadowed the company’s message.

Ballmer aggressively pitched Microsoft’s new mobile devices, while del Toro pitched his upcoming “Pacific Rim,” and Eve teased the “Star Trek” sequel and an app tied to the sci-fier that will launch around the Super Bowl. Even Big Bird had something to sell: a new Sesame Street app.

Del Toro unveiled a new “Pacific Rim” clip running off of a tablet equipped with the new Snapdragon 800 flagship processor. And showcasing the chip’s ability to run Ultra High Definition content, del Toro introduced a scene from an Ultra HD version of “Blade 2” running on the platform.

“Snapdragon will let it be seen exactly as I wanted it to be seen,” he said.

Qualcomm was pushing the “Born Mobile” theme, underscoring the growing importance of mobile devices in today’s world. The company’s processors power more than 500 devices on the market today, with another 400 in development now, Jacobs said.

“Mobile … is breaking down barriers and bridging the digital divide,” he said.

Maroon 5 ended the keynote, perfoming a three-song acoustic set of “One More Night,” “This Love” and “Payphone.”

Between the bursts of star power, Jacobs did manage to make some announcements, though.

Beyond the next generation processor (which will not only display UHD visuals, it will record them), he discussed the launch of the Tricorder XPrize, a contest to encourage developers to create a small handheld medical scanner — with the winner taking home $10 million. And he unveiled Qualcomm Halo, a new charging solution for electric cars that doesn’t require owners to plug in any cables.

All run on Qualcomm technology, bringing the point home during the keynote.

In a video presentation, Archbishop Tutu discussed the importance of mobile devices in emerging and impoverished nations saying, “Mobile is going to have transformative impact on the public health here and in Africa and all around the word.”

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