Tag: Qualcomm

Chinese give Qualcomm a novel suggestion

Tchinaflaghe Chinese government, which is currently about to release its antitrust watch-dogs onto US chipmaker, Qualcomm has come up with a novel way for the outfit to avoid trouble.

Qualcomm has been told that if it helps Chinese companies become so competitive that they can give the company a good kicking, then the watchdogs will be sent back to their cages.

Lu Wei, the head of China’s State Internet Information Office, was speaking at a panel http://www.weforum.org/ during a World Economic Forum event in Tianjin, China, where Qualcomm’s executive chairman Paul Jacobs was also among the speakers.

Lu told Jacobs that Qualcomm made $24 billion in revenue during the company’s last fiscal year, with nearly half of it from China.

“This means China is a good place to make money… we should make money together. You should work alongside Chinese companies to make money.”

China’s National Reform and Development Commission has been investigating Qualcomm since last November, on industry complaints that the company has been overcharging Chinese clients to use its patents.

Qualcomm said the company had 70 Chinese vendors using its 4G LTE patents, and another 120 vendors for its 3G CDMA patents.

Jacobs replied that his company had been helping Chinese companies to deliver new products to the market. This includes working with over 90 Chinese companies to build devices.

“I feel like it has been a win-win between Qualcomm and Chinese companies, Chinese customers and I hope that continues far into the future,” Jacobs said.

Qualcomm releases Snapdragon 210

qualcomm-snapdragonQualcomm has released its new Snapdragon 210  chip which should mean more LTE smartphones running high-quality video.

Sticking two fingers up at its rival MediaTek, Qualcomm has built a 28-nm chip for the entry-level market. It has based around a 1.1 GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU, Adreno 300-series GPU, supports up to 8 megapixel cameras, and has a resolution of up to 720p.  Not huge but you are trying to watch a movie on a screen the size of a beer mat.

It supports HD Video with high efficiency video coding support and supports the usual USB, Bluetooth, single-stream 802.11n WiFi, and NFC standards.

Qualcomm claims this is the first LTE-Advanced chipset to target the sub-US$100 phone category.

It is clear that Qualcomm wants to be the first of the starting blocks with this sort of technology.  The world is slowly moving to LTE but most of it is happy with its 3G phones.


Nvidia sues Qualcomm and Samsung

nvidia-gangnam-style-330pxNvidia has sued Qualcomm and Samsung for infringing its patents on graphics processing technology.

Nvidia said Qualcomm and Samsung had used Nvidia’s patented technologies without a licence in Samsung’s mobile devices and the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge.

Nvidia said Samsung devices made with graphics technology from Qualcomm, Britain’s ARM and Imagination Technologies infringed on its patents.

Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang said that the pair were using Nvidia technology free and were shipping an enormous number of devices.

Nvidia did not say it is suing Imagination – part owned by Apple –  or ARM  – started by Apple really, but it did say it is asking the US International Trade Commission to prevent shipments of Samsung devices containing ARM’s Mali or Imagination’s PowerVR graphics architectures, as well as Qualcomm’s graphics technology.

However, since Imagination technology is also found under the bonnet of Apple’s iPhones, it could be that Nvidia plans to sue Apple.

It is clear that Apple was not a legal cage that Nvidia wanted to rattle yet. Huang said he was focused on Samsung and Qualcomm, and continues to have “productive conversations” with many other companies out there.

In other words the cunning plan is to take out Qualcomm and Samsung and the others will pay a lot of money to make Nvidia lawyers go away.

Samsung has said it will fight Nvidia, while the others have not made a comment.

Intel poaches Qualcomm exec

cracking-eggs-mFashion bag and bracelet maker Intel is attempting to prove that it is serious about mobile by headhunting one of Qualcomm’s gadget makers.

Amir Faintuch is a senior executive at Qualcomm’s networking and connectivity businesses Atheros, which we were surprised to discover has nothing to do with one of the three musketeers.

It is unusual for Intel to look outside its own company for senior executives and the hiring is being seen as a portent that the company is serious to sort out its struggling mobile business.

Faintuch will be an Intel a senior vice president and co-general manager of the Platform Engineering Group.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said Faintuch will  be among Intel’s dozen or so most senior executives and will co-manage the Platform Engineering Group with Josh Walden, a manufacturing technology expert who previously led the group.

Mulloy said that Faintuch brings experience designing “system on chips,” or SoCs, which combine features like modems, Wi-Fi and memory.  Chipzilla is still a little short on the expertise needed for designing SoCs.

“We want to accelerate our success rate with SoCs and get the designs aligned and the roadmaps aligned to do that. We’ve made good progress but there’s more to be done. Amir has extensive management experience and a strong resume,” he said.

Since taking over in 2013, CEO Brian Krzanich has made a number of sweeping changes designed to counteract a slump in PC sales, including opening Intel’s cutting-edge factories to other chipmakers willing to pay for access to them.

Still the traffic between Intel and Qualcomm has not been one way. In fact Qualcomm is seen as a nicer place to work. In 2012, senior executive Anand Chandrasekher, a 25-year Intel veteran, jumped over to Qualcomm to become the outfit’s chief marketing officer.

Nadella kowtows to China

kowtowMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella appears to be packing his suitcase to visit China in late September in a move which might be an attempt to sort out the government’s rejection of his company’s software.

Although China runs on pirated versions of Windows XP, the government has forbidden its civil servants from using anything more modern than Windows 7.  The idea being that it will be releasing a homegrown version of Linux which it will expect everyone to use.

At the same time, the Chinese are investigating Redmond for playing monopoly behind the bamboo curtain.

Nadella has a lot to talk about with the government, although it is not clear if he will meet with any Chinese government representatives as part of his visit, or try to resolve problems with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), one of China’s antitrust regulators.

Foreign CEOs often pay calls on the world’s second-largest economy to strengthen business and political ties and Nadella is following Qualcomm’s President Derek Aberle who also looked to end his company’s woes in China.

The shy and retiring Steve Ballmer, did occasionally go to China in his 14 years as CEO, but that was mostly to speak loudly and carry a soft stick about piracy. Ballmer sulked in 2011 that Microsoft got more revenue in the Netherlands than China.

EU watchdog bites Qualcomm’s rump

AnubiIt looks as if the EU is going to back Nvidia’s complaint against Qualcomm and investigate the chipmaker for alleged anti-trust shenanigans.

Nvidia has been moaning about Qualcomm for nearly four years and the investigation coincides with a similar case in China into the chipmaker’s monopoly practices.

If found guilty of breaching EU rules, the company could face a fine of up to $2.5 billion.

Reuters said that the Commission may open a case after the summer.

The case centred on the British mobile phone chipmaker Icera which was bought by Nvidia in 2011.

While no one said what happened to Icera, it appears that the company accused Qualcomm of using patent-related incentives and exclusionary pricing of chipsets to discourage customers from doing business with it.

No one seemed to care that much and the issue appeared to have faded from the Commission’s agenda. However, a recent case where Europe’s second-highest court in June upheld a record 1.1 billion euro EU fine against Intel for abuse of its dominant market position made the regulators realise that they were sitting on a nice little earner.

Companies can be fined as much as 10 percent of their global revenues for breaching EU antitrust rules.

But the case is a long way off being resolved and anything could happen. In 2010, the EU competition authority scrapped a four-year probe into Qualcomm after Ericsson and Texas Instruments withdrew their objections against the company.

Qualcomm is in denial

bad-dogQualcomm, under investigation for possible monopolistic practices in China, said it had no direct financial links with an antitrust expert.

Zhang Xinzhu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and one of China’s leading antitrust experts was sacked from a government advisory post after state media reported he had received payments from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm is being investigated by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), one of China’s three antitrust regulators, over how the company licenses its patents and prices its chipsets.

The chipmaker did not hire Zhang directly. When it was investigated by the NDRC it hired Global Economics Group to produce an economic analysis for submission to the regulator. Global Economics Group employed Zhang Xinzhu.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday that Zhang had been fired from the State Council’s expert commission on competition issues for taking “huge rewards” from Qualcomm. The implication was that Qualcomm had been bribing Zhang to suggest that the regulators should be nice to the American chipmaker.

Qualcomm paid Global Economics its standard rates for the firm’s services,” Trimble said, and did not have “any financial dealings” with Zhang directly.

Qualcomm’s analysis was submitted to the NDRC in May and had three principal authors, including Zhang.

The Chinese said that Zhang had “contravened work discipline” and been removed from his position on the anti-monopoly committee.

The news agency said “certain multinational companies” had been attempting to delay antitrust probes, including spending money to gain support on experts groups and complaining of being picked on for being foreign.

“Against this backdrop, hiring relevant ‘experts’ from government departments to ‘speak on behalf of foreign companies’ is a violation of discipline … This matter should be gotten to the bottom of and bought to light,” Xinhua said.

The 21-member anti-monopoly academic experts group from which Zhang was dismissed was established in 2011. The group is seen to serve the principal role of providing the bureaucracy with the supporting arguments needed to justify its industrial policy aims.

But Zhang has been critical of the NDRC, and claimed that the regulator had acted outside of its jurisdiction and misused antitrust principles. It appears that the regulator, might just want him out of the way.

Chinese regulators gun for Microsoft

microsoft-in-chinaIt seems that after claiming the rump of Qualcomm, the Chinese antitrust regulators want to take a bite out of Microsoft.

Apparently representatives from China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce (SAIC) popped in for a quiet chat to the Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

No one is actually saying what the conversation was about, but it is not thought that the Chinese water torture was used at this point of the investigation.

SAIC is not just in charge of antitrust matters, it also takes the lead in any bribery and corruption investigations as well as intellectual property rights abuse cases,

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company was happy to answer the government’s questions but did not say what those questions were.

Qualcomm is facing penalties that may exceed $1 billion in one such Chinese antitrust probe, following accusations of overcharging and abusing its market position.

Needless to say this is getting the US jolly cross. It favours letting businesses do whatever they like or senators are not going to get their usual Christmas presents from their favourite lobby group.

The US Chamber of Commerce earlier this year urged Washington to get tough with Beijing on its use of anti-competition rules, and warned that “concerns among U.S. companies are intensifying”.

Microsoft has been having a little bit of trouble in Big China lately. Earlier this month, activists said Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service were being disrupted.

In May, central government offices were banned from installing Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest operating system, on new computers. This ban has not been lifted, as multiple procurement notices since then have forbidden the use of Windows 8.

Qualcomm is a monopoly – report

monoplyMobile chipmaker Qualcomm has been accused of running a monopoly by China’s antitrust watchdog.

The state-run Securities Times newspaper reported on Thursday that Qualcomm’s chief executive Steven Mollenkopf  held talks in China to see what could be done about the problem.

Watchdog, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), snarled that the US chipmaker was suspected of overcharging and abusing its market position In wireless communication standards, allegations which could see it hit with record fines of more than $1 billion.

However the NDRC, did not say whether the regulator had determined that Qualcomm had abused its monopoly, just that it had confirmed it had one.

Qualcomm was charging lower royalties for patents to undercut competitors who have similar technology and maintain market share. The report also said that Qualcomm, as the only provider of chips for high-end phones, can dictate those licensing fees.

The Securities Times report said the NDRC was probing Qualcomm’s local sales data and that Qualcomm President Derek Aberle has been communicating with the NDRC over issues relating to the anti-monopoly investigation.

Under China’s anti-monopoly law, the NDRC can impose fines of between one and 10 percent of a company’s revenues for the previous year. Qualcomm earned $12.3 billion in China for its fiscal year ended September 29, or nearly half of its global sales.

TSMC shares fall on rumours of chip cancellations

A not so mobile X86 PCTSMC shares fell as much as six percent after an analyst and Taiwanese media reported that Apple and Qualcomm were going to buy their next generation chips from elsewhere.

This is bad news as TSMC reported its highest quarterly profit since the end of 2006, and said it expected revenue to grow at least a record 20 percent this year. But its outlook was based on increased demand from Apple which recently chose TSMC over Samsung to make the majority of chips for the successor to its iPhone 5 series of smartphones.

But it looks like Apple and Qualcomm will likely buy a larger proportion of 14 nanometer smartphone chips from Samsung rather than TSMC beginning in the second half of 2015.

KGI Securities analyst Michael Liu said in a note to clients that he found that tasty bit of gossip following an investor conference held after TSMC reported second-quarter earnings.

The Commercial Times on Thursday, citing market speculation, said Qualcomm has already started working with Samsung to develop the chips. The Economic Daily News said without citing sources that Qualcomm had placed orders with Samsung.

However the rumours are not believed by everyone. Quanta Securities Analyst George Chang, who also attended the conference, said this was just a lot of speculation as no one has even seen the iPhone 6 yet, so it’s too early to say anything about future products.

During the conference, TSMC Chairman Morris Chang admitted that the company’s market share in 16 nanometer chips – which perform similarly to 14 nanometer chips – will be smaller than “a major competitor” next year, and that TSMC will claw it all back the year after.

Giants battle over the internet of thongs

intel_log_reversedMicrosoft has joined Qualcomm and other technology companies in a bid to establish standards for the Internet of fings, fangs, thongs and things, writes Nick Farrell.

The Qualcomm-backed AllSeen Alliance attracting people who want to promote protocols for how smart devices should work together.

Microsoft joined 50 other members in the AllSeen Alliance, including major consumer electronics players Panasonic, LG and Sharp.

However this is not the only standards consortium out there  and chipmakers that compete with Qualcomm plan to launch a rival standards consortium as early as next week.

It looks like we will have another standards war similar to that sparked by the Blu-Ray and HDTV standard.

Apple – known for strictly controlling how other companies’ products interact with its own, in June announced plans for HomeKit, which will integrate control of devices like garage door openers, lights and thermostats.  Of course  Apple gear will be slavishly adopted by Apple fanboys who are keen to have Coldplay playing on their fridge, but will probably not be seen elsewhere.

Last week, Google said it partnered with Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool Corp and light bulb maker LIFX to integrate their products with Google’s Nest thermostats and smoke detectors.

So far the biggest player, Intel, has stood like Lord Stanley on the sidelines of the Battle of Bosworth waiting for one side to start calling for a horse.  While saying it is keen on the Internet of Thongs,  it is thinking of the internet of bags.

Qualcomm beats the smartphone pack

Intel-logoStrategy Analytics said that Qualcomm grabbed 54 percent revenue share in the smartphone application processor market in 2013.

Apple had 16 percent share and MediaTek 10 percent share in a market that was worth $18 billion last year, a rise of 41 percent over 2012.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and 600 chip families along with its 400 and 200 ranges gave it a strong position.  Apple’s 64 bit A7 did well in the latter half of the year.  Samsung ranked number five, followed by Spreadtrum.

Intel had a minute 0.2 percent revenue share.

However, in the tablet processor sphere, Intel did somewhat better.  Qualcomm heads the pack in the non Apple market but Apple itself has the lead overall with 37 percent share.  Samsung has 10 percent revenue share, and Qualcomm 11 percent. Strategy Analytics did not give figures for Intel.

PC slump may actually benefit AMD in long run

AMD, SunnyvaleIt is often said that a crisis is merely an opportunity in disguise. It is often said but it’s rarely true. However, the steep drop in PC shipments could in fact be good news for AMD.

Ten years ago AMD taught Intel a costly lesson in the high end, forcing Intel to regain its footing and invest heavily in R&D and manufacturing. As a result Intel squeezed AMD out of the high-end consumer CPU market, relegating it to the mid range and low end.

AMD wasted its opportunity, but eventually it picked up ATI a couple of years after its CPU design peaked. Things looked bright for a moment, just before they went terribly wrong. AMD suffered from poor execution and its high end chips just weren’t good enough to keep up with Intel. The K8 glory days are long gone and AMD is now a different company, it is fabless, but it also has plenty of IP, competitive graphics and very interesting APU and x86 SoC designs.

So how could the weak PC market benefit AMD, especially now that mobile chips are the new black, and AMD hasn’t got any?

Long upgrade cycles are one indicator that the era of “good enough” computing is already here. The average PC is more than four years old, few people need costly high end processors and attention is shifting to low end and mid range silicon. This is what AMD is becoming good at. Its new Jaguar based APUs are brilliant and they are superior to Intel’s current generation of Atoms. Richland based APUs aren’t as competitive, but they offer relatively good value for money and they are making inroads in the ULV market as well. The bad news is that AMD is still suffering from execution problems. Kaveri was supposed to replace Richland later this year, but it has been pushed back to early 2014, along with desktop Jaguar-based Kabini parts. AMD’s propensity for delays makes any forecast extremely difficult.

With very little need for Intel’s high-end x86 chips in the consumer market, gamers and professionals aren’t enough. This is an obvious opportunity for AMD and CEO Rory Read seems to get it. That might explain why AMD is focusing its efforts elsewhere. APUs are just part of the story, they were the logical next step in CPU evolution. AMD’s next big thing is custom chip design. The Xbox One and PS4 are based on Jaguar, with AMD graphics in tow. Now for some geeky figures.

Most people associate Jaguar with cheap and small APUs, but custom console SoCs are neither. Built using TSMC’s 28nm process, the SoC used in the Xbox One actually features eight Jaguar CPU cores, coupled with powerful graphics and plenty of SRAM embedded on the die. They pack around 5 billion transistors, while Intel’s mid-range Haswells are said to feature between 1.4 billion and 1.2 billion, depending on the SKU.

AMD hasn’t forgotten how to do huge, immensely complex chips – it’s just not doing big x86 cores anymore. Its high-end GPUs also have upwards of 4 billion transistors. What’s more, AMD can apply the same custom approach to server parts and it’s also working on ARM based server chips as well. This flexible, modular approach sounds very interesting indeed, but it’s still too early to say whether AMD will put it to good use in server chips, so to speak,  whether it will manage to find enough customers for custom parts, as the orders have to be relatively big to justify the expense of developing and producing such chips.

As far as AMD’s graphics business goes, it is doing rather well at the moment. Time and again AMD has proven that it can go toe to toe with Nvidia and win a few rounds. We’ve been looking at a virtual stalemate for the past five years. This year AMD managed to increase its GPU market share, despite the fact that Nvidia won nearly all Haswell notebook design wins. The trouble for Nvidia is that notebook graphics are a dying market. In the consumer space AMD is doing well, while Nvidia still maintains a big lead in high-margin professional graphics. The recent console wins should also help AMD’s consumer GPU business, as developers should find it easier to optimise their games for AMD’s architecture on three different platforms.

The big question is mobile. A couple of months ago Nvidia announced that it would license its Kepler GPU and future GPU IP to third-party ARM SoC builders. AMD has not made the same commitment, but some AMD graphics tech is already used in mobile chips, in the form of Qualcomm’s Adreno graphics. The ARM SoC business will continue to grow and we are bound to see more consolidation. Nvidia has a small presence in the ARM SoC market and if it is willing to license its technology to its own competitors, AMD could and should enter the market as well. It is worth noting that Adreno is running out of steam, as it is based on old AMD/ATI tech. We’re not sure it would make financial sense for Qualcomm to continue development in-house, it might reach out to AMD instead. There is very little overlap between Qualcomm and AMD at the moment, and such a marriage of convenience would make perfect sense. If that happens, AMD could end up with a huge market share in ARM SoC graphics, trumping Nvidia, ARM and Imagination.

AMD is still in a world of trouble, but looking ahead it might actually be in a better position to weather the storm than Intel, at least in the consumer space. High end chips and server parts are still Intel’s turf, although AMD could score some custom server wins in the future. Intel is pushing mobile now and it has a good chance of penetrating the market a couple of years from now, but in reality if AMD starts licensing GPU IP to the likes of Qualcomm, it could make heaps of cash in mobile, with a lot less investment and risk than Intel.

Microsoft hit by $900 million Surface RT write-down

surface-rtMicrosoft announced its fiscal Q4 results last night and unsurprisingly the results missed expectations by a wide margin. The PC market remains slow, hence Redmond’s numbers can’t be good. The company reported revenue of $19.9 billion and earnings of $4.97 billion.

However, Microsoft’s attempt to tap the tablet market seems to have failed quite spectacularly. Redmond announced an embarrassing $900 million inventory write-down for Surface RT tablets. So, instead of helping the company out, the Surface burned a massive hole in its pocket.

Last week Microsoft slashed the Surface RT price by $150 in an apparent effort to clear inventory. The company is already working on the next generation of Surface RT products and it apparently includes two different form factors. The problem is that nobody else appears to be working on RT devices – in fact vendors seem to be running away from it like a particularly nasty flu bug.

The only companies who still seem to be supporting Windows RT are Qualcomm and Nvidia, which comes as no surprise since they are supposed to build the chips for next generation Surface devices. In a recent interview with Computerworld, Nvidia vice president of computing products Rene Haas said the chipmaker is still committed to Surface RT and Windows RT. He said he is excited by the “new price point” which might inspire new sales.

However, analysts are having none of it.

J. Gold Associates analyst Jack Gold said that Nvidia is simply marketing its product. “They don’t want to spook the market and say RT sucks and won’t sell,” he said. Analyst and ex-AMD and Compaq employee Pat Moorhead thinks Microsoft won’t ditch the platform anytime soon – even if it means that it will be the only OEM using it.

However, even Microsoft can’t afford such write-downs every couple of quarters and something has to change soon, or it will have another Zune on its hands.

The writing is on the wall for Windows RT

surface-rtOver the last week or so we witnessed a flurry of Windows RT news, some positive, some very negative indeed. Late last week Microsoft decided to slash the prices of the Surface RT by as much as $150 in an effort to make the uncompetitive tablet a bit more appealing to the average consumer on the prowl for a cheap media tablet.

In June, Microsoft announced that it would release Outlook 2013 for Windows RT tablets, which is clearly an attempt to gain a bit more traction in the enterprise segment. The decision not to include Outlook in Windows RT at launch was baffling, and still is. The first reviews of Outlook 2013 for RT are in and they are positive, but it really should have been included months ago. With the upcoming 8.1 update, it should land on all RT devices, provided there are still RT devices by the time it appears.

This is no laughing matter, the lack of actual Windows RT products is becoming a serious concern. For example, Lenovo has just dropped the Yoga 11 convertible from its web shop. Dell and Asus have also slashed the prices of their RT tablets. Some players like HP ignored Windows RT altogether, while some gave it a go and dropped it, like Samsung. What’s more, all vendors are focusing on proper Windows 8 tablets instead, based on x86 chips.

In fact, the only hardware maker that still seems to be taking Windows RT seriously is Microsoft itself. The Surface RT price cut is a way of clearing inventory and making room for the next generation Surface RT, or a couple of them. At this point it seems that Microsoft is working on two different designs. One is reportedly based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, while the other one will be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 4. Rumours of a smaller Surface RT have been floating around for months and there is a good chance Microsoft will roll out a 7- to 8-inch design along with a new full-size 10.6-incher.

Unfortunately it seems to be too late. Future Windows RT tablets, including the Surface RT in both rumoured flavours, will now have to compete with tablets based on Intel’s new Bay Trail chips. This was not the case last year, when the Surface RT was opposed solely by ARM based Androids and iPads. Now it will face tough in-house competition in the form of Windows 8.1 tablets powered by Intel’s x86 Atoms. What’s more, Bay Trail is shaping up to be a beast. It is said to be faster than the Snapdragon 800 and it doesn’t need much power, either.

With new x86 SoCs from Intel and AMD coming online, it is hard to see why Microsoft would want to stick with a specialized tablet OS, designed for ARM. The next generation of Windows 8.x tablets is expected to end up a lot cheaper than the first generation, leaving very little wiggle room for Windows RT. Small wonder then that many brands aren’t getting on board, since they seem to believe Windows RT will be dead as disco within a generation or two.

It seems that the only practical way to keep Windows RT alive in the long run is to stick it on dirt cheap tablets designed to take on bargain Androids in the 7- to 8-inch range. This probably won’t work, as Windows RT is rather bloated and it’s far too expensive to make sense on such cheap devices, unless Microsoft agrees to practically give it away for free. Since we are talking about Microsoft, this will happen when hell freezes over. In theory at least, Microsoft could keep Windows RT alive, but we’re really not sure it should.