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posted by on Saturday June 10 2017, @04:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the patently-ridiculous dept.

Intel may be planning to sue Microsoft for its plans to include x86 emulation in Windows 10 for ARM machines:

In celebrating the x86 architecture's 39th birthday yesterday—the 8086 processor first came to market on June 8, 1978—Intel took the rather uncelebratory step of threatening any company working on x86 emulator technology.

[...] The post doesn't name any names, but it's not too hard to figure out who it's likely to be aimed at: Microsoft, perhaps with a hint of Qualcomm. Later in the year, companies including Asus, HP, and Lenovo will be releasing Windows laptops using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor. This is not the first time that Windows has been released on ARM processors—Microsoft's first attempt to bring Windows to ARM was the ill-fated Windows 8-era Windows RT in 2012—but this time around there's a key difference. Windows RT systems could not run any x86 applications. Windows 10 for ARM machines, however, will include a software-based x86 emulator that will provide compatibility with most or all 32-bit x86 applications.

This compatibility makes these ARM-based machines a threat to Intel in a way that Windows RT never was; if WinARM can run Wintel software but still offer lower prices, better battery life, lower weight, or similar, Intel's dominance of the laptop space is no longer assured. The implication of Intel's post is that the chip giant isn't just going to be relying on technology to secure its position in this space, but the legal system, too.

Also at ZDNet and CRN.

Original Submission

Related Stories

Qualcomm Files New Lawsuit Against Apple, Alleging it Shared Confidential Information with Intel 9 comments

Qualcomm accuses Apple of helping Intel with chip software

The patent licensing battle between Apple and Qualcomm keeps getting more heated. Wednesday, Qualcomm filed another lawsuit against Apple, this time alleging Apple shared confidential Qualcomm software information with its chip rival, Intel. The breach of contract lawsuit said Qualcomm gave Apple "unprecedented access to Qualcomm's very valuable and highly confidential software, including source code." In return, Apple agreed to take steps to keep the software confidential and secure. But Qualcomm said instead it found that Apple shared information with Intel.

In one instance, Apple requested confidential software information from Qualcomm and cc'd an Intel engineer on the message, Qualcomm said.

Qualcomm wants a court to declare Apple breached the agreement and award damages, among other demands. "As the direct and proximate result of Apple's conduct, Qualcomm has suffered significant damages in an amount to be proven at trial," the filing said.

Apple also hasn't complied with Qualcomm's rights to audit Apple's compliance with the provisions of their software agreement, Qualcomm said in its lawsuit. It wants to do so to make sure Apple hasn't shared more information with Intel.

Also at Bloomberg, AppleInsider, and MacRumors.

Previously: U.S. Federal Trade Commission Sues Qualcomm for Anti-Competitive Practices
Qualcomm's Good Quarter
Intel Hints at Patent Fight With Microsoft and Qualcomm Over x86 Emulation
Apple vs. Qualcomm Escalates, Manufacturers Join in, Lawsuits Filed in California and Germany
Apple Could Switch From Qualcomm to Intel and MediaTek for Modems

Original Submission

First ARM Snapdragon-Based Windows 10 S Systems Announced 15 comments

Microsoft Windows is back on ARM:

Just shy of a year after announcing that Windows was once again going to be available on ARM systems, the first two systems were announced today: the Asus NovaGo 2-in-1 laptop, and the HP Envy x2 tablet.

[...] The Asus laptop boasts 22 hours of battery life or 30 days of standby, along with LTE that can run at gigabit speeds. HP's tablet offers a 12.3 inch, 1920×1280 screen, 20 hours battery life or 29 days of standby, and a removable keyboard-cover and stylus. Both systems use the Snapdragon 835 processor and X16 LTE modem, with HP offering up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage to go with it.

Lenovo is expected to announce a similar system in the coming weeks.

Also at The Verge, Engadget, and TechCrunch.

Previously: Big Changes Planned by Microsoft - Windows 10 on ARM, Laptops to Behave More Like Phones
Windows 10 PCs Running on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 to Arrive this Year
New Windows 10 S Only Runs Software From Windows Store
Microsoft Knows Windows is Obsolete. Here's a Sneak Peek at Its Replacement.
New App Allows Win32 Software to Run on Windows 10 S
Intel Hints at Patent Fight With Microsoft and Qualcomm Over x86 Emulation

Original Submission

Chinese Company Produces Chips Closely Based on AMD's Zen Microarchitecture 33 comments

China Finds Zen: Begins Production Of x86 Processors Based On AMD's IP

Chinese-designed "Dhyana" x86 processors based on AMD's Zen microarchitecture are beginning to surface from Chinese chip producer Hygon. The processors come as the fruit of AMD's x86 IP licensing agreements with its China-based partners and break the decades-long stranglehold on x86 held by the triumvirate of Intel, AMD and VIA Technologies. Details are also emerging that outline how AMD has managed to stay within the boundaries of the x86 licensing agreements but still allow Chinese-controlled interests to design and sell processors based on the Zen design.

AMD's official statements indicate the company does not sell its final chip designs to its China-based partners. Instead, AMD allows them to design their own processors tailored for the Chinese server market. But the China-produced Hygon "Dhyana" processors are so similar to AMD's EPYC processors that Linux kernel developers have listed vendor IDs and family series numbers as the only difference. In fact, Linux maintainers have simply ported over the EPYC support codes to the Dhyana processor and note that they have successfully run the same patches on AMD's EPYC processors, implying there is little to no differentiation between the chips.

The new chips are surfacing against the backdrop of the trade war between the US and China that could escalate quickly, likely reinforcing China's long-held opinion that a lack of native processor production could be a strategic liability. Today's wars are won with chips, and their strategic importance certainly isn't lost on those in the halls of power. In fact, the Obama administration blocked Intel from selling Xeon processors to China in 2015 over concerns the chips were fueling the country's nuclear programs, and subsequent actions by the US have largely prevented China from achieving the technical know-how and equipment to develop its own chips through acquisitions and mergers.

That makes it even more surprising that AMD has managed to establish a franchise that allows Chinese processor vendors to develop and sell x86 processors in spite of US regulations and the licensing restrictions with Intel, but now more information is coming to light about how AMD pulled off the feat.

Related: Intel Launches New Chips in China as US Bans Sales to Supercomputing Centers
Intel Hints at Patent Fight With Microsoft and Qualcomm Over x86 Emulation
Data Centers Consider Intel's Rivals
Tencent Chairman Pledges to Advance China Chip Industry After ZTE "Wake-Up" Call

Original Submission

Intel Reportedly "Petitioned Microsoft Heavily" to Use x86 Instead of ARM Chips in Surface Go 15 comments

Intel reportedly convinced Microsoft not to choose ARM for Surface Go

Microsoft launched its new Surface Go device earlier this month with an Intel Pentium Gold processor inside. It's been one of the main focus points for discussions around performance and mobility for this 10-inch Surface, and lots of people have wondered why Microsoft didn't opt for Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors and Windows on ARM. Paul Thurrott reports that Microsoft wanted to use an ARM processor for the Surface Go, but that Intel intervened.

Intel reportedly "petitioned Microsoft heavily" to use its Pentium Gold processors instead of ARM ones. It's not clear why Microsoft didn't push ahead with its ARM plans for Surface Go, but in my own experience the latest Snapdragon chips simply don't have the performance and compatibility to match Intel on laptops just yet. Microsoft has been working hard to improve this though, despite Intel's threats it would sue competitors like Qualcomm if they attempt to emulate Intel's x86 instruction set architecture.

Wintel looms large.

Previously: The Surface Go Reviews Are In, and... They're a Bit All Over the Place

Related: Intel Hints at Patent Fight With Microsoft and Qualcomm Over x86 Emulation
First ARM Snapdragon-Based Windows 10 S Systems Announced
Snapdragon 1000 ARM SoC Could Compete With Low-Power Intel Chips in Laptops
ARM Aims to Match Intel 15-Watt Laptop CPU Performance

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @04:40PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @04:40PM (#523510)

    More innovation stifling patent wars. So they going to sue everyone else too? ( like QEMU? )

    I haven't been fond of Intel since they killed the ix432. Growing to hate them over the years, much like microsoft and oracle.

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:09PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:09PM (#523515)

      I haven't been fond of Intel since they put in backdoors into their products so that they could make sure that mmmaaallleeesss don't have wrongthought about cute young girls vs THICCCC ADULT PROUD WOMYN

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday June 10 2017, @09:26PM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) on Saturday June 10 2017, @09:26PM (#523597) Journal

      Intel already licensed this tech and its instruction set to AMD, and IBM So it hasn't been exclusive for a long time, and the instruction set is pretty much in the public domain, except for recent additions. But even those could emulated in RISK environments for a slight speed loss. Every compiler in the world generates this code.

      I think Intel would lose this case.

      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by BK on Sunday June 11 2017, @02:17AM

        by BK (4868) on Sunday June 11 2017, @02:17AM (#523657)

        Well, patents run 20 years around here... 1997 puts us back to the 'Pentium' type x86 instructions +/-. I'm guessing there's been a few new developments since then. M$ may have included some of those.

        Intel already licensed this tech and its instruction set to AMD, and IBM

        Presumably, M$ hasn't purchased such a license. If Intel sells licenses on this tech, that means that they've retained exclusive control. Of course, with patents, (unlike trademarks,) that doesn't actually matter.

        Every compiler in the world generates this code.

        That's copyright. It isn't about the code a compiler might generate, it's about the machine on which that compiled code can run.

        ...but you HAVE heard of me.
  • (Score: 2) by bradley13 on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:12PM (7 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:12PM (#523516) Homepage Journal

    I suppose it depends on which patents, and what is being emulated, but: Don't patents expire after 17 years? 17 years ago was already the first Xeons. Anything up to that point ought to be out of patent protection. That certainly covers the general architecture; the only thing not covered would be instructions developed since then.

    Even then: I would submit that an instruction set is actually an interface, specifically, an interface to allow software to interact with the hardware. The implementation of the instruction set would be patentable, but the simple definition of instructions? Not so much. An emulator will have a different underlying implementation, but providing the same interface should be fine.

    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:51PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:51PM (#523529)

      They don't fall under 10+10 patents?
      If so you're looking at 2020 before 2000 era patents qualify, which is pre Pentium 4.

      That means no SSE2+, NX, AVX, VMX, x86_64, no 180nm process tech, no IPC improvements from the past 20 years, etc.

      Obviously *SOME* of them might actually be unpatentable/overturnable thanks to prior art, but the majority of these there is at least one patent they can swat you with. Having said that, Intel's relevance in the market is fading, even if it isn't obvious to the business community/stock market yet. SoftBank is looking more and more like the heir apparent to the technological throne. Owner of the ARM IP, Owner of Boston Dynamics and other robot/manufacturing technology. Internet/Telecommunications master. Financial supporter of many anime (and even a few MMOs?) They have their hands in almost everything tech nowadays, but unlike Intel they don't seem to be flailling about with their purchases. They are systematically buying up specific companies in specific markets that are both undervalued for their potential and capable of much more given the proper corporate support and guidance (IE taking boston dynamics' designs and actually producing some field prototypes... rad-hardened for use in Fukashima Daiichi, for instance.)

      Having said all this, from a consumer perspective the greatest benefit to come from this would be a non-profit organization devoted to producing RISC-V chips with user friendly features, like wholly device owner controlled TPM/TrustZone/ME implementation that allows the user to input keys (whether into efuses inside the CPU, efuses outside the cpu in a seperate package, or simply loaded from flash during bios initialization, with physical write protection to ensure it stays disabled... Which BTW is dangerous on SPI flash, where the write disable pin only works if the flash has write-disable *ENABLED* in software after poweron! Meaning glitching could exploit and allow a write to flash even when you believe yourself protected by a read-only behavior! Unlikely to happen in practice, but impossible to ensure without architectural changes!)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:53PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:53PM (#523532)

      Not to mention most of Intel's x86 code is actually licensed from AMD and their amd64 instruction set. Every intel chip running 64 and 32 bit code is using this instruction set because it was better than their in house version called IA64.
      It's saber rattling with no real threat imho. If they do take it to court it will be opening a can of worms as qualcomm and microsoft will devote legal resources to tracking down the origin and original patent/licenser of each instruction set on a modern intel cpu. Intel would have a good chance of being found to violate someone else's licenses/patents and costing them major money in turn.

      They won't risk it, that is unless intel is not only too badly hurt from the hit by ryzen. And too scared of how top end phones can pretty much be drop in replacements for low end and corporate desk jockey systems. Ie i3's and celerons.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 11 2017, @02:13AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 11 2017, @02:13AM (#523656)

        No high end smartphone is anywhere near the speed of any i3. You need to come back to reality.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:12PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @05:12PM (#523517)

    Patents are done, and the "innovation" is obvious to anyone in the field as simple obvious extensions.

    They are threatening having to force the other Co's to pay legal fees over a non existent frivolous claim. This is extortion. An illegal method. Perhaps their targets should use some other methods aswell in turn?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @06:22PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10 2017, @06:22PM (#523540)

    Any idea how fast the emulation will be? If it's sort of like a 386, than my old MS-DOS software should run just fine? Remember, this is MS, with a long history of bloat and terrible performance. Just say'n...

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Saturday June 10 2017, @07:26PM (4 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Saturday June 10 2017, @07:26PM (#523563) Journal [] []

      Speed/efficiency is unknown AFAICT. The emulation isn't for Win16, so fire up DosBox. We'll have to see what benchmarks say about the speed, but many Windows applications probably don't need full speed.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
      • (Score: 1) by oakgrove on Sunday June 11 2017, @02:24AM (3 children)

        by oakgrove (5864) on Sunday June 11 2017, @02:24AM (#523660)

        No matter how many canned demo marketing videos Microsoft puts out, the speed in real day to day work is going to be garbage for one simple reason. Even if it was perfect, the Snapdragon 835 is literally about half the speed of the lowest end Core m3. This shit isn't magic. If you fancy trading in your laptop for one that runs at half speed on a cellphone CPU then go for it. I doubt the market will follow you. This may get some good battery life and light weights but laptops already go for more than ten hours and weigh less than two pounds. This is going to be the modern EeePC. A fad that will drive the fanboys and geeks crazy but won't even make a blip anywhere else. At least let's hope not. Nothing will put a blackeye to the idea of non-Core laptops like one that is so frustratingly slow the average consumer wants to chunk it out the window.

        Now tell me how fast and smooth the web browser is on your smartphone is as if that is remotely relevant so I can laugh.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday June 11 2017, @03:00AM (1 child)

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Sunday June 11 2017, @03:00AM (#523672) Journal

          There are already ARM laptops/Chromebooks. Anything like what you described would at least beat Windows RT. Compatibility with x86 makes the systems more useful than RT was.

          Not sure if Core m3 is the right comparison when people regularly buy Intel CPUs that are dramatically slower than the m3. You know, dual-core Celerons like the Intel Celeron N2840 (or the newer Intel Celeron N3060). I'm looking at Passmark and seeing numbers that are substantially lower for the N3060 [] than Intel Core M-5Y31 [] or even the Intel Core M-5Y10 []. I believe that's one of the slowest Core M chips Intel made.

          Core M was not so cheap when it debuted []:

          Atom sits at the lower price band ($50-$100 per chip), typically in a dual or quad core arrangement without hyperthreading and uses ‘modules’ of two discrete cores sharing an L2 cache. The integrated IO is designed to be enough for this market segment, as seen in the recently announced Surface 3, and shows that devices in the $500 region are ripe for the next Atom SoCs.

          [...] Intel lists all of the Core M processors at $281, and a user will be hard pressed to find a Core M device priced under $700 on the market now; such is the gap that Intel wants to strike with the two platforms. Core M sits at the heart of the new Macbook (read our hands on), as well as most of the devices in this test such as the ASUS UX305, Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro and the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000. With the Broadwell architecture and hyperthreading under its belt, the results do speak for themselves as Core M attacks the Haswell-U line from the last 18 months in terms of direct performance.

          Snapdragon 835 devices may be somewhat cheaper []:

          We’re excited about the prospect of new Windows 10 running on Snapdragon 835 but no devices have been announced just yet. What we do know is that HP, Lenovo and Asus are three confirmed brands to be making devices. We expect them to arrive later this year with mid-range prices of $400-700. These devices might even be available on a contract plan like phones.

          Anything that launches at $400 will be at sale for $250-300 before too long.

          The point is that even if Snapdragon 835 turns out to be only half as fast as today's Core m3 chips, something you have no evidence of since Microsoft hasn't released any of their own benchmarks and the Windows on ARM products are not on the market, it might be priced appropriately. A lot of these Core m3 products started [] at [] $900 [] or more.

          I wouldn't worry about the emulation speed right now. We'll know how good or bad it really is when it gets benchmarked. I doubt anyone is saving up in the piggy bank to specifically buy a Windows 10 for ARM laptop. We can have another story about this when the first Windows on ARM machines have been benchmarked.

          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
          • (Score: 1) by oakgrove on Sunday June 11 2017, @05:53AM

            by oakgrove (5864) on Sunday June 11 2017, @05:53AM (#523705)

            There are already ARM laptops/Chromebooks. Anything like what you described would at least beat Windows RT. Compatibility with x86 makes the systems more useful than RT was.

            None of these run win32 applications nor do they bear the user expectation burden of being performant while running said applications so they aren't really comparable. The closest thing to what this is was Windows RT which was a dismal failure so if that's what you're going with then.. maybe rethink something.

            Not sure if Core m3 is the right comparison when people regularly buy Intel CPUs that are dramatically slower than the m3.

            Most Windows laptops run Core processors so that's the right processor to compare to. Besides, the most common complaint of Atom powered stuff is "it's slow" which supports my point. I chose the m3 because it's the lowest of the low end. I'm actually giving SD 835 a sporting chance in that regard. If I was being completely neutral, I'd compare it to a typical i3 or i5-7200U which would completely slaughter it.

            Anything that launches at $400 will be at sale for $250-300 before too long.

            I'm not arguing they won't be cheap. I'm arguing they will be too slow to meet consumer expectation at basically any realistic price. Just like the cheap Android tablets that while cheap, have the highest return rates because they're just too slow.

            even if Snapdragon 835 turns out to be only half as fast as today's Core m3 chips, something you have no evidence of

            But that's wrong though. I have plenty of evidence. The internet is full of benchmarks of the 835 and the m3 running general purpose workloads which almost always show the 835 to be about half as fast. The term you're looking for is "proof" and, yes, we won't know for absolute sure until these laptops come out but that's where critical thinking comes into play. If every benchmark shows the 835 to be half as fast as an m3 and the laptops in this case are not just running ARM compiled Windows but actually doing dynamic translation of x86 programs on top in the process, what is the likelihood that the end result is going to be anything but at best the equivalent of the m3 running at half speed. If full Windows laptops with a processor that slow were viable beyond the tepid sales of Atom powered models, we'd know it by now. To put an even finer point on it, I have a Lenovo T420s with the Sandybridge i5-2520m which also benchmarks twice as fast as the SD835. That is a 6 year old laptop with a low to midrange processor. Now imagine everything processor bound on it taking twice as long. That doesn't even get into things like comparative memory I/O etc.

            To reiterate the crux of my argument, I believe that SD835 powered laptops will be too slow to meet consumer expectations of a full Windows laptop experience. Benchmarks back that up by showing the chip to be half as fast as the current low-end (Core m3) with acceptable performance. And anything lower than this "low-end" like Atom powered stuff just doesn't sell very well for that exact reason, i.e., it's slow. I also argue that price floor is not as important as people believe based on how cheap current laptops can be and there being a minimum of acceptability of performance at any price, that last part being the fundamental issue. I also argue that battery life and weight is an overblown concern as we have laptops now that weigh less than two pounds and will go all day. It can be argued that, yes, there are Core powered laptops that are fast, have long battery life, and are thin and light but you aren't going to get all that for cheap. True but that isn't an argument in favor of the SD835 stuff since, again, there is a floor of acceptable performance which I assert this will not reach. That's my position but ultimately we'll all see. Just remember that I told you so.

        • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Monday June 12 2017, @05:16PM

          by urza9814 (3954) on Monday June 12 2017, @05:16PM (#524509) Journal

          I know organizations that still deal with Visual Basic 6 apps on a daily basis. I tried to migrate them to something newer, but we couldn't find anything they agreed was cheap/easy enough, so the VB6 crap lives on...and now I've started supporting OTHER groups across the country still using this crap because the original devs are long gone. And a few years ago I ran into a company still running Windows 3.1. On a laptop. For their accounting software. I'm sure there's a large number of "business critical" wintel apps that would run just fine on an ARM system because they ran just fine on single core systems a decade or more back and they haven't changed since.

          This isn't for gaming. Most office apps aren't loading a 3GHz quad core to 100% utilization. Plenty of software will run just fine.

  • (Score: 2) by tekk on Saturday June 10 2017, @09:41PM (1 child)

    by tekk (5704) Subscriber Badge on Saturday June 10 2017, @09:41PM (#523605)

    Why is MS working with Qualcomm, a hardware company, to make use of software emulation? I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being some sort of weird hybrid.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 11 2017, @06:01AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 11 2017, @06:01AM (#523707)

      QCOM is a *HUGE* portion of the phone market. MS wants back in. They actually have been working together for years all the way back to the WinCE days.

      Intel will have a pretty large problem with emulation and patents. They let they sit for to long at this point. They basically may have just let it slide too long. QCOM will not let that go down without a fight. QCOM has some pretty good lawyers and their own set of patents. My bet is Intel is wanting to make their costs cheaper. QCOM charges a premium for their stuff. Hence Intel's saber rattling. MS is also not without expertise and emulation in the court. They bought the company that beat Sony and the same company that is at the core of their emulation. Watch for a settlement and Intel gets a better price.

  • (Score: 2) by KritonK on Sunday June 11 2017, @10:21AM

    by KritonK (465) on Sunday June 11 2017, @10:21AM (#523749)

    Isn't it a bit too late to try defending their patents against emulators? There were software x86 emulators for the Amiga [], decades ago, which were capable of running MS-DOS. These days there is DOSBox [], QEMU [], and a whole slew [] of other x86 emulators. Now they remember that they don't like them?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 11 2017, @12:59PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 11 2017, @12:59PM (#523786)

    Great, just what we need. Another technology giant using patents as a lock-in. How does this move "promote the sciences and useful arts"? I thought that interoperability was specifically excluded from the scope of patent protection?

    Besides, patents are supposed to protect the implementation, not the entire concept, and hardware-assisted ISA virtualization is hardly new -- IIRC Sparc already had Java acceleration some 15 years ago, at there were POCs for that published in CE literature.