Qualcomm chief Paul Jacobs was officially crowned the star of the mobile-centric tech industry Monday, offering a glimpse of the power of new devices to transform people's lives.
But as Jacobs delivered the main keynote for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, he briefly ceded the stage to a familiar face: Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, a longtime keynote speaker himself, who made a surprise cameo appearance.
Microsoft, which had been the core of CES events in the past, made a highly publicized exit from CES last year. But Ballmer returned for a few moments to discuss new Windows mobile devices with Jacobs, who has quietly become a key figure as the tech sector swings toward mobility.
"Mobile is transforming industries and redefining the way we live," Jacobs told a packed crowd in Las Vegas on the eve of the opening of the world's biggest electronics trade show.
Jacobs unveiled a new line of Qualcomm Snapdragon processors which are geared for newer devices to deliver improved performance and battery life.
He called the 800 series processors "a leap ahead in performance and power efficiency," saying devices using them would consume around half the power of previous ones and be able to capture and view the new "ultra HD" video now seen on high-end television sets.
The choice of Jacobs to kick off the big event for the trillion-dollar tech sector is emblematic of the shift in the industry.
Even though Qualcomm has kept a low profile until now, it has overtaken Intel in terms of market value and provides the power core for the lion's share of popular mobile devices.
On Monday, Jacobs showed he was willing to accept the new "rock star" role at the festive keynote. He introduced film director Guillermo Del Toro and "Star Trek" actress Alice Eve, while highlighting the growing role of Qualcomm chips in the entertainment industry.
He also interacted with Sesame Street character Big Bird on apps for education and South African archbishop Desmond Tutu on mobile devices that can be used for health care in developing nations.
The show was closed by the band Maroon 5, reinforcing the "rock star" stature of the tech CEO.
Jacobs also showed his company's wireless car charging system, which has been used on a modified electric Rolls Royce touring the world, underscoring Qualcomm's efforts to promote wireless technology.
And he announced that Qualcomm would provide the technology for a smartphone app for the upcoming "Star Trek Into Darkness" film from Paramount Pictures.