Motorola Skips Qualcomm's 4G Chip: Tech Edge

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Motorola ( MMI) is blazing its own trail in 4G chips.

We picked up a funny little tidbit about Motorola's Xoom tablet at the Consumer Electronics Show last week.

Motorola chief Sanjay Jha introduced the thin, 10-inch touchscreen device and said he was fairly confident the Xoom would arrive before April, in a 3G format upgradeable to 4G.

The plan, according to Motorola, is that sometime before July customers can upgrade to 4G, most likely by visiting a store or returning the device to tech support for the installation of the 4G chip.

That scenario would rightly be called a significant hitch, since most people prefer to buy finished products. But adding a mysterious twist to the Xoom's less-than-clean launch, Motorola says it is supplying the 4G chip.

According to the lead technical people at the show who work on Xoom, Motorola's 4G chip is still going through some development with the Google ( GOOG) Android camp and was not entirely ready.

A couple takeaways here: First, who knew Motorola was developing chips? That side of the business was spun off years ago with Freescale. Second, 4G chips are Qualcomm's ( QCOM) turf, and Qualcomm is already in the Xoom with its 3G chip. The multiple chip approach breaks from the common understanding in tech that calls for single chips with multiple capabilities.

If Motorola has a successful version of its own 4G LTE chip, it could disrupt the next step in Qualcomm's lucrative partnership with the phone maker.

We had a chance to run that by Qualcomm's big brass on Thursday.

During an interview with Qualcomm chief Paul Jacobs, we asked him about Motorola's approach. Jacobs wasn't overly concerned.

"We'll see about that," Jacobs said about Motorola's LTE chip plan. "A lot of these things start off that way, but it doesn't usually stay like that."

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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Editor's note: "Tech Edge" is a blog written and compiled by Scott Moritz, TheStreet's senior tech correspondent. The blog explores behind-the-scenes tech news, rumors and reports that Wall Street folks are talking about.