Intel Throws Down Legal Gauntlet Against Upcoming Qualcomm-Powered Windows 10 Devices


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Intel Thursday released a blog post that served as a warning for companies emulating its proprietary x86 instruction set architecture without its permission – a week after competitor Qualcomm disclosed its intent to provide x86 emulation on Microsoft's Windows 10 ARM-based PCs.

"There have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel's proprietary x86 ISA without Intel's authorization," read the blog post, which was written by Intel Executive Vice President and General Counsel Steven Rodgers and Director of Systems and Software Research Richard Uhlig.

[Related: Partners: Intel's New Core X Platform Means 'The Race Is On' With AMD For Gamers, Enthusiasts]

"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," read the blog post. "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."

Qualcomm last week said its Snapdragon 835 processors will power Windows 10 devices from OEMs including HP, Asus and Lenovo.

Qualcomm said that Windows 10 devices powered by Snapdragon processors will tout the same apps and features as Windows 10 on tablets, notebooks, laptops and PCs – and run Universal Windows Platform and Win32 apps through emulation. These commercial devices will be available in the second half of 2017, according to Qualcomm.

Intel and Microsoft have had a longstanding partner relationship around Windows 10 devices, and the two companies are working on computers that are poised for features like Microsoft's Cortana capabilities and artificial intelligence.

"Given our recent announcement with ASUS, HP and Lenovo, we found the blog that one of our competitors published on June 8 very interesting," a Qualcomm spokesperson told CRN. "We look forward to the launch of the always connected Windows 10 PC powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform later this year. As showcased at Computex 2017 in conjunction with Microsoft, the Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform brings a true always connected PC experience with support for up to Gigabit LTE connectivity and all-day battery life for sleek, thin and fanless designs. This will change the future of personal computing."

Meanwhile, an Intel spokesperson said the company had no comment on its blog post with regard to specific companies, but provided CRN with the following statement from Rodgers: “Intel respects intellectual property rights and we expect others to do the same. x86 technology is both proprietary and central to our business, and we’re concerned any time it appears that others may be copying it inappropriately. We will thoroughly evaluate any products that claim to emulate x86 technology, and vigorously enforce our intellectual property rights if we believe they are infringed.”

Intel partners said the company is under pressure in the mobile device market as Qualcomm faces up against the chip giant with new Windows 10 devices – particularly as Intel tries to make a stamp on 2-in-1s and tablets in its Client Compute Group.

Intel's past shows that the company is not afraid to enforce its patent rights against various companies – the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has enforced its IP rights against infringement by third-party microprocessors, through successful lawsuits against companies like United Microelectronics Corporation, AMD, Cyrix Corporation, and Via Technologies.Most recently, Intel shot down Transmeta Corporation in 2007 after the company claimed to have produced a compatible x86 processor using emulation techniques.

"In general, competition seems to be getting worse for Intel," said Erik Stromquist, COO of CTL, a Portland, Ore.-based system builder and Intel partner. "ARM has been on the rise in the low end … while we're seeing more design wins with Qualcomm. Intel's partnerships are even more important now."

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