Partners: Qualcomm Should Expect Intel To 'Flex Muscles' Around Potential x86 Emulation Infringement Issues

Intel partners think Qualcomm should be wary of a blog post published Thursday that warned competitors against emulating its proprietary x86 instruction set architecture (ISA) without its permission.

"I don't think Intel will be afraid to flex their muscles against emulation issues," said Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Intel and Microsoft partner. "When they faced similar emulation issues with AMD in in the past, they reacted in the same way."

Qualcomm last week announced that its Snapdragon 835 processors will power Windows 10 devices from OEMs like HP, ASUS and Lenovo.

[Related: Intel Throws Down Legal Gauntlet Against Upcoming Qualcomm-Powered Windows 10 Devices]

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The company said that Windows 10 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.

"There have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel's proprietary x86 ISA without Intel's authorization," said 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.

Randy Copeland, president and CEO of Velocity Micro, a system builder and Intel partner based in Richmond, Va., said he predicts Intel will not be afraid of bringing Qualcomm's ARM-based systems to court over infringement issues.

"I'm suspicious of the performance capabilities of any ARM-based device that tries to run Windows 10 in a meaningful way, so that means anything would be relegated to low end," he said. "I'd be even more suspicious about any ARM product that tries to emulate X86 without a full-on fight from Intel. I'm going to predict that this project will not go too far."

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 with companies like United Microelectronics Corporation, AMD, Cyrix Corporation, and Via Technologies. Most recently, Intel shot down Transmeta Corporation after the company claimed to have produced a compatible x86 processor using emulation techniques.

"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."

At the channel level, partners stressed that Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 devices will probably be lower-end, meaning that there will not be a big opportunity for channel partners to drive sales with enterprise customers.

"Legal issues aside the growth we are seeing in the client space is at the high-end of the market with performance computers such as gaming systems, workstations, and home enthusiasts PCs … We also expect this segment to continue to grow so entry level devices where Qualcomm would be used are not necessarily the focus point of system builders, VARs, and channel resellers," said Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at Fremont, Calif.-based ASI, an Intel system builder.