Things were looking better for Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) than they had in a long time -- demand for its technology has been strong, and it had finally settled a long-running royalty dispute with top mobile phone maker Nokia (NYSE:NOK). But that was before the economy started really falling to pieces, dragging the wireless-chip maker down with it.

The final quarter of fiscal 2008 capped a good year for Qualcomm's operations.. The Nokia license agreement comprised $560 million of the $3.3 billion in revenue in the quarter, around a 44% boost over last year. Qualcomm is counting itself as another benefactor of the run on smartphones, as the company noted this was a major factor in keeping the average selling price of handsets strong. Qualcomm hopes to continue the trend, placing its silicon in numerous high-end devices such as Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) first Android phone, the HTC Dream, selling as T-Mobile USA's G1.

But while Qualcomm had a lot of new cash coming in the door, a significant chunk of its greenbacks parked in investments has recently evaporated, including preferred shares of Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac, and other investments in Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual. In the fourth quarter alone, the company recorded $327 million in impairments.

And the outlook for 2009 went from strength to weakness within a matter of weeks. Qualcomm has recently seen a significant pullback in orders from its chip customers. It now estimates that a swift inventory contraction will hurt sales in the coming few quarters. Emerging markets are also expected to make up a larger portion of sales, combining with a strong dollar to drop the average selling price of handsets. For these reasons, the company pulled back its earnings target for fiscal 2009, from around $2.60 per share to around $2 to $2.10.

Qualcomm noted that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty facing the mobile-device sector right now. While Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has energized the smartphone market, and AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) continue to capture record numbers of subscribers, the economic pinch will certainly slow the replacement rate of mobile phones. In the near term, that will temper the amazing growth Qualcomm has delivered for decades. But from this Fool's point of view, its long-term position remains strong.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock never figured taming shrew s would be all that difficult -- they just don't appear all that wild and out-of-control in the first place. He owns shares of Qualcomm and is the author of The Qualcomm Equation.Nokia is an Inside Value selection. Google is a Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy was once accidentally auctioned off with a priceless Van Gogh collection.

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