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

#26
Darmok N Jalad
Ever since Apple started making its own ARM SOCs, I've occasionally wondered if they had a bigger plan to someday put them in their entire line of products. I figure they didn't want to go to Intel in the first place for reasons like this, but they had no choice when PowerPC wasn't cutting it. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see they have test mule desktops and MacOS running on their ARM products. If anyone can just walk away from Intel and change architectures, it would be Apple, as they have done it before. ARM-based solutions are getting pretty powerful at the lower TDPs, so it may just be a matter of time when we see a shift again.
Posted on Reply
#27
Camm
People with the whole 'Intel is evil' line not realise that every ARM manufacturer faces pretty significant licensing costs from ARM holdings right?

What will be interesting is Intel only has enforceable patents post-pentium. The original 8086 design is unenforceable. Intel can probably argue for license rights, but those rights will diminish over time.
Posted on Reply
#29
Dave65
Stay classy, Intel:shadedshu:
Posted on Reply
#30
TheLostSwede
Evildead666
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.....
Via might not be doing anything, but then again, they never were, it's Centaur doing all the x86 work and having spoken to an employee there recently, they're working on something, but I'm not at liberty to share that information I'm afraid.
Posted on Reply
#31
Solidstate89
Microsoft's WOW emulation layer is easily the most high-performance and impressively developed emulation software in the world. To the point that running native 32-bit software on 64-bit Windows at worst, runs just as fast as on on a 32-bit Windows OS, or sometimes even faster. It's one hell of an accomplishment by any metric for an emulation layer.

Microsoft is not going to let any company dictate to them how to use WOW - even if it's Intel. Expect a protracted legal fight if Intel wants to make something out of this.
Posted on Reply
#32
rvalencia
Solidstate89
Microsoft's WOW emulation layer is easily the most high-performance and impressively developed emulation software in the world. To the point that running native 32-bit software on 64-bit Windows at worst, runs just as fast as on on a 32-bit Windows OS, or sometimes even faster. It's one hell of an accomplishment by any metric for an emulation layer.

Microsoft is not going to let any company dictate to them how to use WOW - even if it's Intel. Expect a protracted legal fight if Intel wants to make something out of this.
For Xbox 360's NV2A emulation, MS paid $$$ to NVIDIA.

Both NVIDIA and Intel will fight for their patents.
Posted on Reply
#33
bug
Camm
People with the whole 'Intel is evil' line not realise that every ARM manufacturer faces pretty significant licensing costs from ARM holdings right?

What will be interesting is Intel only has enforceable patents post-pentium. The original 8086 design is unenforceable. Intel can probably argue for license rights, but those rights will diminish over time.
This. x86 patents have expired long ago, what they're enforcing these days is what was patented over the last two decades.
Posted on Reply
#34
Tralalak
Evildead666
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.....
TheLostSwede
Via might not be doing anything, but then again, they never were, it's Centaur doing all the x86 work and having spoken to an employee there recently, they're working on something, but I'm not at liberty to share that information I'm afraid.
* In 2003, VIA settled its long-time patent and monopolisation disputes against Intel in the UK in exchange for an extensive cross-licence agreement with Intel for 10 years.
source: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sect...l_decision.pdf

* In addition, the FTC settlement order will require Intel to:

modify its intellectual property agreements with AMD, Nvidia, and VIA so that those companies have more freedom to consider mergers or joint ventures with other companies, without the threat of being sued by Intel for patent infringement;
offer to extend VIA’s x86 licensing agreement for five years beyond the current agreement, which expires in 2013;
source: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/pres...-against-intel

_____________
About VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co Ltd. - 上海兆芯集成电路有限公司 (ZHAOXIN)

VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. was established in April 2013 with a total registered capital of USD$250M. As a joint venture between Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd. who is affiliated to Shanghai SASAC and VIA Technologies, Inc., VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. has about 1000 employees and locates its headquarter at Zhangjiang of Shanghai with branches in Beijing, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Taiwan, California and Texas of America (Centaur Technology Inc.).

With the forefront technologies and know-how in the design of CPU, GPU and chipsets, VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. is well known to provide high security, high performance, low power dissipation, and low cost SoC solutions.

As a fabless SoC factory, VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. adopts advanced 40nm and 28nm semiconductor processes. VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd.’s main products include CPU and chipsets for desktop PC and laptop and ARM Cortex series SoC with its state of the art Elite series GPU and Video Engine IPs. VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. aims at becoming the leading SoC solution supplier for smart TV (TVOS), smart phone and tablets.


link: http://en.zhaoxin.com/

Current x86 Product
source:
http://en.zhaoxin.com/Solution.aspx?id=3


• (2017): ZX-D (28nm) 2.0GHz QuadCore and 2.0GHz OctaCore
link:
http://en.zhaoxin.com/InCenterContent.aspx?id=115
link: http://en.zhaoxin.com/InCenterContent.aspx?id=112
link: http://ranker.sisoftware.net/show_system.php?q=cea598ab98ac9ca597b1d6ebc6f7d1a39eaf89e0ddedcba39eae88f0cdfddbbedbe6d6f083be86&l=en

• (2018): ZX-E (16nm) [B]up to 3.0GHz OctaCore

[B]Will after AMD comeback also VIA processors [B]comeback
? FinFET’s going chips and a large modernization[/B][/B]
source:[/B] https://translate.google.sk/translate?hl=sk&sl=cs&tl=en&u=https://www.cnews.cz/bude-po-comebacku-amd-navrat-procesoru-via-chysta-finfetove-cipy-velkou-modernizaci/
Posted on Reply
#35
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
My hope is that Microsoft wins because the implications of not being able to emulate hardware in software is far more broad sweeping than just Microsoft and Intel. Emulation is the only reasonable way to allow software to move forward in spite of changes to hardware.

And Intel created this demand in the first place by not offering a product that competes with ARM (Atom costs too much and draws too much power).

My greatest hope (and completely unrealistic) is that the court will order Intel's x86 patents public domain. They've have more than enough time to recoup their research costs.


The most likely outcome is that Microsoft will settle and pay Intel a licensing fee.
Posted on Reply
#36
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
FordGT90Concept
My greatest hope (and completely unrealistic) is that the court will order Intel's x86 patents public domain. They've have more than enough time to recoup their research costs.
My hope is that they force Intel to license x86 at a reasonable rate.
Posted on Reply
#37
remixedcat
ARM holdings (or a large part thereof) was acquired by Saudi Arabia sheik/prince/whatever so ARM is hanging in the balance... Intel will be just fine and x86 will be as well...
Posted on Reply
#38
Lightofhonor
bug
This. x86 patents have expired long ago, what they're enforcing these days is what was patented over the last two decades.
Basic x86, yes. But I am guessing not SSE4, AVX2, etc.

Although isn't x64 owned by AMD?
Posted on Reply
#39
csgabe
Based on Intel logic: why does Microsoft have the right to create x86 OS or WoW x86 emulation on x64?, if it doesn't have a x86 license?
Posted on Reply
#40
newtekie1
Semi-Retired Folder
Lightofhonor
Basic x86, yes. But I am guessing not SSE4, AVX2, etc.
Even just SSE is still under patent until 2019 since SSE was patented in 1999. The SSE2 patent is good until 2021 and the SSE3 patent is good until 2024.

Lightofhonor
Although isn't x64 owned by AMD?
I believe, since x64 is still based on x86 and still uses the x86 instructions as a base, the x86_64 patent is actually jointly held by AMD and Intel.
Posted on Reply
#41
efikkan
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...
What? How would x86 licensing have an impact on ARM?

Camm
People with the whole 'Intel is evil' line not realise that every ARM manufacturer faces pretty significant licensing costs from ARM holdings right?

What will be interesting is Intel only has enforceable patents post-pentium. The original 8086 design is unenforceable. Intel can probably argue for license rights, but those rights will diminish over time.
This case is not about the implementation, but rather the ISA. ISA patents also include extensions made over the years.
Posted on Reply
#42
OneMoar
There is Always Moar
m$/qc don't need a license the courts already ruled years ago that hardware emulation is legal (bleem!)
Posted on Reply
#43
cdawall
where the hell are my stars
Well well well.. This will be impressive to see how two multi-billion companies legal teams go at it.
Posted on Reply
#44
RejZoR
efikkan
What? How would x86 licensing have an impact on ARM?


This case is not about the implementation, but rather the ISA. ISA patents also include extensions made over the years.
Exactly for reasons why this thread even exists. So you can run x86 apps on ARM processors.
Posted on Reply
#45
Darmok N Jalad
Lightofhonor
Basic x86, yes. But I am guessing not SSE4, AVX2, etc.

Although isn't x64 owned by AMD?
IIRC, x86-64, or AMD64 was largely developed by AMD, but they made it an open standard. I don't believe there are any royalties. However, being an extension of 32bit x86, that portion still gets licensed through Intel.
Posted on Reply
#46
Totally
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...
iirc went down something like this

someone was buying VIA, nvidia i think.
Intel: "Hold on not so fast"
*reaches into VIA's portfolio and plucks out x86 licence agreement*
Intel: "Sorry about that. We forgot to mention it says not transferrable."
Posted on Reply
#47
bug
Darmok N Jalad
IIRC, x86-64, or AMD64 was largely developed by AMD, but they made it an open standard. I don't believe there are any royalties. However, being an extension of 32bit x86, that portion still gets licensed through Intel.
30s of searching yields: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X86-64#Licensing
Posted on Reply
#48
R-T-B
Solidstate89
Microsoft's WOW emulation layer is easily the most high-performance and impressively developed emulation software in the world. To the point that running native 32-bit software on 64-bit Windows at worst, runs just as fast as on on a 32-bit Windows OS, or sometimes even faster. It's one hell of an accomplishment by any metric for an emulation layer.

Microsoft is not going to let any company dictate to them how to use WOW - even if it's Intel. Expect a protracted legal fight if Intel wants to make something out of this.
Except that's not an emulation layer. It's literally just running in 32-bit non-long mode on a 64-bit cpu. No emulation. The media often called it that, but it's a misuse of the term.

remixedcat
ARM holdings (or a large part thereof) was acquired by Saudi Arabia sheik/prince/whatever so ARM is hanging in the balance... Intel will be just fine and x86 will be as well...
No, Softbank, which is Japanese. No Saudis here.

Even if it was aquired by Saudi Arabia, I see no reason that would make it any less competitive.
Posted on Reply
#49
evernessince
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.
Emulation is only a crime when you use intellectual property of the party you are emulating or use their patents. For example, Apple would not be happy if someone emulated the Apple store and hoodwinked their app database. It's essentially stealing their marketplace, even though it took Apple a long time to build up all of those developers, apps, and underlying software. The same applies to x86, where Intel is not only significantly invested on the hardware side but on the software side as well. Intel compilers, dev programs, ect. It's like giving out free candy as "CandyCorp" and then someone else stealing that name and using that goodwill to sell candy based on that first impression.
Posted on Reply
#50
TheLostSwede
Tralalak
* In 2003, VIA settled its long-time patent and monopolisation disputes against Intel in the UK in exchange for an extensive cross-licence agreement with Intel for 10 years.
source: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sect...l_decision.pdf

* In addition, the FTC settlement order will require Intel to:

modify its intellectual property agreements with AMD, Nvidia, and VIA so that those companies have more freedom to consider mergers or joint ventures with other companies, without the threat of being sued by Intel for patent infringement;
offer to extend VIA’s x86 licensing agreement for five years beyond the current agreement, which expires in 2013;
source: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/pres...-against-intel

_____________
About VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co Ltd. - 上海兆芯集成电路有限公司 (ZHAOXIN)

VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. was established in April 2013 with a total registered capital of USD$250M. As a joint venture between Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd. who is affiliated to Shanghai SASAC and VIA Technologies, Inc., VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. has about 1000 employees and locates its headquarter at Zhangjiang of Shanghai with branches in Beijing, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Taiwan, California and Texas of America (Centaur Technology Inc.).

With the forefront technologies and know-how in the design of CPU, GPU and chipsets, VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. is well known to provide high security, high performance, low power dissipation, and low cost SoC solutions.

As a fabless SoC factory, VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. adopts advanced 40nm and 28nm semiconductor processes. VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd.’s main products include CPU and chipsets for desktop PC and laptop and ARM Cortex series SoC with its state of the art Elite series GPU and Video Engine IPs. VIA Alliance Semiconductor Co., Ltd. aims at becoming the leading SoC solution supplier for smart TV (TVOS), smart phone and tablets.


link: http://en.zhaoxin.com/

Current x86 Product
source:
http://en.zhaoxin.com/Solution.aspx?id=3


• (2017): ZX-D (28nm) 2.0GHz QuadCore and 2.0GHz OctaCore
link:
http://en.zhaoxin.com/InCenterContent.aspx?id=115
link: http://en.zhaoxin.com/InCenterContent.aspx?id=112
link: http://ranker.sisoftware.net/show_system.php?q=cea598ab98ac9ca597b1d6ebc6f7d1a39eaf89e0ddedcba39eae88f0cdfddbbedbe6d6f083be86&l=en

• (2018): ZX-E (16nm) [B]up to 3.0GHz OctaCore

[B]Will after AMD comeback also VIA processors [B]comeback
? FinFET’s going chips and a large modernization[/B][/B]
source:[/B] https://translate.google.sk/translate?hl=sk&sl=cs&tl=en&u=https://www.cnews.cz/bude-po-comebacku-amd-navrat-procesoru-via-chysta-finfetove-cipy-velkou-modernizaci/
So yeah, these are for the Chinese market, not likely to be available outside of China.
Let's see if they can deliver their new chips next year at a competitive level.
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