Friday, June 9th 2017

Patent War Brewing Between Intel and Qualcomm-Microsoft over x86 Emulation

Intel rigorously defends its hold over its core intellectual property, the x86 CPU machine-architecture. AMD is the only active licencee of x86, and has a competitive line of processors across market segments. It has been a long-cherished dream of chipmakers without an x86 license to have Microsoft, the world's leading PC operating system manufacturer, somehow emulate their Win32 API, which is inherently designed for the x86 architecture, on the more widely licensed ARM architecture. As one of the largest ARM chipmakers, Qualcomm pushed for 2-in-1 (notebook-to-tablet) convertible PCs driven by its Snapdragon processors, which run Windows 10, complete with support for Win32 software, besides Microsoft's UWP apps.

This Snapdragon + Windows 10 reference convertible is so impressive with its battery life and performance, that major PC OEMs such as Lenovo, HP, and ASUS have lined up to license the design and make their own designs. This would have been a licensable form-factor governed by Microsoft, much like how Intel governed the Ultrabook form-factor. This would hit hard at Intel's bottomline, because SoC makers with big R&D budgets like Qualcomm, Samsung, and NVIDIA, who each hold ARM licenses, could go on to power bigger and faster PCs which emulate x86, driving Intel out of the ecosystem. The company dropped the hammer earlier this week, in a passive-aggressive note without taking names, warning Microsoft and Qualcomm to cease from their efforts to build such a device.
Intel holds over 1,600 patents related to x86, and assured that it welcomes "lawful competition," but will not stand for "unlawful infringement of patents." Key excerpts from a statement released by the company read:
There have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel's proprietary x86 ISA without Intel's authorization. Emulation is not a new technology, and Transmeta was notably the last company to claim to have produced a compatible x86 processor using emulation ("code morphing") techniques. Intel enforced patents relating to SIMD instruction set enhancements against Transmeta's x86 implementation even though it used emulation.

Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition, and we are confident that Intel's microprocessors, which have been specifically optimized to implement Intel's x86 ISA for almost four decades, will deliver amazing experiences, consistency across applications, and a full breadth of consumer offerings, full manageability and IT integration for the enterprise. However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights.
These are ominous signs that should Qualcomm and Microsoft continue down this path, they will either have to remove Win32 application support from their device, rendering it into a Windows RT-esque potato which only runs UWP apps; or gear up for a long-drawn IP battle between two Fortune 500 companies with billions of dollars in legal budgets.Source: HotHardware
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58 Comments on Patent War Brewing Between Intel and Qualcomm-Microsoft over x86 Emulation

#1
RejZoR
This X86 licensing crap is holding everything back. If Intel wasn't such dick about it, we'd have a lot better competition from ARM CPU makers as well. Instead, we only have AMD and Intel. Not even sure what happened to the one held by VIA...
Posted on Reply
#2
Brusfantomet
btarunr said:

Intel holds over 1,600 patents related to x86, and assured that it welcomes "lawful competition," but will not stand for "unlawful infringement of patents." Key excerpts from a statement released by the company read
HA HA HA, yes, the previous anti trust cases shows exactly how much Intel welcomes "lawful competition"
Posted on Reply
#3
evernessince
RejZoR said:
This X86 licensing crap is holding everything back. If Intel wasn't such dick about it, we'd have a lot better competition from ARM CPU makers as well. Instead, we only have AMD and Intel. Not even sure what happened to the one held by VIA...
This is actually a valid use of the patent system in this case. So long as Intel continues to improve upon x86 they are well within their rights. As you can see other processor architectures have come along just fine.
Posted on Reply
#4
Firedrops
Classic Intel... sitting on its ass for almost a decade. Everybody saw this coming since 2011, except Intel apparently.
Posted on Reply
#5
Derek12
RejZoR said:
This X86 licensing crap is holding everything back. If Intel wasn't such dick about it, we'd have a lot better competition from ARM CPU makers as well. Instead, we only have AMD and Intel. Not even sure what happened to the one held by VIA...
What does Intel have to do with ARM makers?
ARM CPUs can work without x86 emulation.
If Win32 API will be replaced by UWP

Bruno_O said:
f*ck intel, f*ck the left, f*ck political correctness, and f*ck intel again
go MS/Qualcomm/whoever
Political comments in a tech forum
Posted on Reply
#6
seronx
RejZoR said:
Not even sure what happened to the one held by VIA...
HTC/VIA/S3/Zhaoxin x86 license is basically indefinite length. It includes all of the patents, if it is x86, VIA has broader access than AMD.
Posted on Reply
#7
R-T-B
seronx said:
HTC/VIA/S3/Zhaoxin x86 license is basically indefinite length. It includes all of the patents, if it is x86, VIA has broader access than AMD.
Are you sure about that? Last I heard it was up for renewal. Renewal for an "indefinite length" strikes me as unlikely.
Posted on Reply
#8
Brusfantomet
seronx said:
HTC/VIA/S3/Zhaoxin x86 license is basically indefinite length. It includes all of the patents, if it is x86, VIA has broader access than AMD.
The AMD license is not transferable, is the one for VIA transferable? because if it is then someone like Samsung could come and give Intel a little scare should AMD kneel over.
Posted on Reply
#9
cryohellinc
As of late Intel is really becoming a power hungry hegemon. They are so afraid to loose any market share, in the meantime making more and more mistakes. (I mean their x299 lineup is a JOKE in itself). If Microsoft succeeds this will only benefit everyone, including the average Joe consumers.

Looking forward to see what happens.
Posted on Reply
#10
TheGuruStud
Emulation is a crime? Lololol

Intel is seeing the end in the future and they're gonna throw tantrums.

Too bad for Intel that Microsoft can laugh at Intel's legal budget.
Posted on Reply
#11
R0H1T
Brusfantomet said:
The AMD license is not transferable, is the one for VIA transferable? because if it is then someone like Samsung could come and give Intel a little scare should AMD kneel over.
In the event of a takeover or AMD going under, that itself is disputed by AMD execs as the original x64 (to x86) extension could well end up with the other party leaving Intel much to ponder over.

Anyway x86 emulation could be solved by some sort of an agreement with AMD, I doubt Intel could stop that from happening. If not then MS could always go nuclear & move Windows natively to ARM, that'll teach Intel.
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#12
bug
we do not welcome unlawful infringement
Is lawful infringement a thing now?
Posted on Reply
#13
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
R0H1T said:
If not then MS could always go nuclear & move Windows natively to ARM, that'll teach Intel.
The shear number of programs that run on x86 would prevent that from every happening. They need some kind of emulation system like they are working on.

That being said, I really can't believe that x86 emulated on ARM processors would be all that fast. Probably fine for basic programs like Word and Excel, but I'd hate to run any halfway demanding game on it or any CPU heavy program(i.e. AutoCAD or Premier).
Posted on Reply
#14
R0H1T
newtekie1 said:
The shear number of programs that run on x86 would prevent that from every happening. They need some kind of emulation system like they are working on.

That being said, I really can't believe that x86 emulated on ARM processors would be all that fast. Probably fine for basic programs like Word and Excel, but I'd hate to run any halfway demanding game on it or any CPU heavy program(i.e. AutoCAD or Premier).
I think it's fair to say that there are more programs on ARM today, iOS & Android, than all of Windows combined. Though you're right that workstation or prosumer applications will be hard to run on ARM, in the near future.
There is rumor though that Apple could go all ARM, even for the entire Mac lineup, with moves such as metal API or a new file manager in iOS among others. Not to mention the Ax SoC are killer in ST & MT tasks, arguably better than even Intel in that power envelope.
Posted on Reply
#15
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
R0H1T said:
I think it's fair to say that there are more programs on ARM today, iOS & Android, than all of Windows combined.
I wouldn't say it is fair to say that. Not when you include the huge library of older programs for Windows. And definitely not if you take out all the useless phone games, most of which are just rehashes of the same match 3 game...
Posted on Reply
#16
_Flare
Intel took SoftMachines wich emulated variations of Cores, able for x86.
Everything giving Intel a Competition beside AMD will get assimilated or killed.

Intel can only be defeated by a suicide of AMD, so it will be a real MONOPOLY and must be tiled by the Governments.

Does someone know if Vulkan or DX12 could be able to run ARM on something like AMDs abandoned K12 ?
Than only a good Gaming-OS (like Windows) is needed, and x86 is dead. ... this will probably never happen.
Posted on Reply
#17
dorsetknob
"YOUR RMA REQUEST IS CON-REFUSED"
seronx said:
HTC/VIA/S3/Zhaoxin x86 license is basically indefinite length. It includes all of the patents, if it is x86, VIA has broader access than AMD.
Sorry but it does not include ALL THE PATENTS and its not indefinite
You also seem to be unaware or are ignoring AMD Cross patent Deal ie for Example X-64
That Cross IP Patent Deal is the Reason why AMD Licence is ongoing
Your Find that Intel only shared Certain patents with AMD "Post Pentium design" and with no other X86 manufacture
this is why the Rest Stopped manafacture and X86 Design after the Release of the Pentium
Cyrix tried going it alone but gave up after a few years

PS Nvidia also have a X86 licence and still make Embedded chips ( covered in other posts elsewhere and on the Nvidia website)
Posted on Reply
#18
chaosmassive
_Flare said:
Intel can only be defeated by a suicide of AMD
Intel wont push AMD to the bankruptcy and wont let AMD reign over them either
'safety pin' so to speak, to prevent any lawsuit from government
which they maintained in for over decade,
if Intel want to kill AMD they could have done long time ago
Posted on Reply
#19
Prima.Vera
The funny thing is, when you say x86, you also say MS Windows. And Windows already can run on ARM CPUs. Either way, Intel will be at loss with this process...
Posted on Reply
#20
slehmann
Intel is the modern church. Trying to slow down any technical progression. If they came up with affordable 8 Core CPUs earlier Ryzen from AMD wouldnt be such big success. If their Atom/Celeron stuff wouldnt be such crap then ARM wouldnt be such a thing for mobile. They should keep their army of lawyers back and do good/better engineering instead.
Posted on Reply
#21
dorsetknob
"YOUR RMA REQUEST IS CON-REFUSED"
Prima.Vera said:
And Windows already can run on ARM CPUs.
Yeh Windows 10RT

Run like a Dachshund male dog trying to Mate with a Great Dane female
Posted on Reply
#22
R0H1T
dorsetknob said:
Yeh Windows 10RT

Run like a Dachshund male dog trying to Mate with a Great Dane female
No, he's likely talking about windows(10) Mobile.
Posted on Reply
#23
Evildead666
dorsetknob said:
Sorry but it does not include ALL THE PATENTS and its not indefinite
You also seem to be unaware or are ignoring AMD Cross patent Deal ie for Example X-64
That Cross IP Patent Deal is the Reason why AMD Licence is ongoing
Your Find that Intel only shared Certain patents with AMD "Post Pentium design" and with no other X86 manufacture
this is why the Rest Stopped manafacture and X86 Design after the Release of the Pentium
Cyrix tried going it alone but gave up after a few years

PS Nvidia also have a X86 licence and still make Embedded chips ( covered in other posts elsewhere and on the Nvidia website)
I'm pretty certain Nvidia don't have an x86 licence. Not anything that would allow them to make a cpu, or anything near it.
They have ARM licences, and so can make Tegra chips etc.

edit : And the VIA licence is non-transferrable. Via isn't doing much any more, and they can't be bought out for their x86 licence.
Its a shame, They invented mini-ITX and Pico-ITX iirc.....
Posted on Reply
#24
bug
slehmann said:
Intel is the modern church. Trying to slow down any technical progression. If they came up with affordable 8 Core CPUs earlier Ryzen from AMD wouldnt be such big success. If their Atom/Celeron stuff wouldnt be such crap then ARM wouldnt be such a thing for mobile. They should keep their army of lawyers back and do good/better engineering instead.
No, stupidity is the new church.

Intel has only stagnated in desktop CPU performance. Because they were left unchallenged in that area. But guess what? They made huge strides in the mobile space and they seriously beefed up their IGPs (they're not at Radeon level, but they're way better than GMA900). Faulting Intel for stagnating in an already stagnant market, is short sighted at best.
Posted on Reply
#25
yeeeeman
I believe Intel will lose more if they fight against these devices. From what I understand, Microsoft + Qualcomm have legal issues and while Qualcomm might not give a shit about this because they only supply the HW, Microsoft might care and want to push this. And Microsoft is part of Intel's success so this might end up bad.
On the other end, if Intel lets this gain traction they might regret it, because emulation will be perfected over time, will have 64bit added so in the end the ARM platform will close in on what Intel has, which any way you look at it, is not good for Intel business. But they deserve it, because they gave up too quickly on the Atom line (probably it didn't generate enough revenue for them).
It will be interesting to see how this turns out, but my bet is that Microsoft won't back down, because they already invested too much in this. They might back down if Intel resorts to ... let's say ... special measures :D
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