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Is Intel Warning Qualcomm about their ARM x86-Emulation used in upcoming Windows 10 Devices?



In December it was reported that Microsoft and Qualcomm were working on new 2-in-1 notebook-like devices for 2017. In April ARM confirmed that such devices would be on schedule for this fall. Then last week HP and others confirmed that they're onboard to deliver products that will offer always-on connectivity. Is Intel happy about this development? Likely not and yesterday they issued an unusual warning to those that think that they can emulate their x86 architecture without a proper license from Intel. Some are speculating that Intel's warning may be aimed at the new Qualcomm-Windows devices.


Yesterday chief lawyer Stephen Rodgers and Intel Labs Director Richard A. Uhlig stated in a company blog post that "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. In any event, Transmeta was not commercially successful, and it exited the microprocessor business 10 years ago.


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. Strong intellectual property protections make it possible for Intel to continue to invest the enormous resources required to advance Intel's dynamic x86 ISA, and Intel will maintain its vigilance to protect its innovations and investments.


Engadget for one is speculating that the warning is aimed at Qualcomm specifically in their new report titled "Intel's not very happy about Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 PCs."


I think we know of another company in Cupertino that would love to see Intel sue Qualcomm. The company's name starts with an "A." But to be fair and accurate, Intel never mentions a specific company in their veiled threat, so it's difficult to assess if it's truly aimed at Qualcomm or other vendors in China who may be thinking of using x86-emulation without an Intel license.


If it actually turns out to be Qualcomm who Intel is threatening, then the minute the new Windows 10 + Qualcomm product hits the shelves this fall, we're likely to read about Intel's legal team rolling up their legal sleeves and going to war. Intel is trying to avoid a war with their warning but are willing to proceed if forced to. So stay tuned.


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