Intel accuses Qualcomm of abusing its mobile chip monopoly

Qualcomm’s dispute with Apple over patents on its chip tech recently took a nasty turn when it asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban iPhone sales in the US. In response to a request from the ITC, Intel has now made its own statement, accusing Qualcomm of abusing its monopoly position and not licensing “standard-essential” patents at a fair rate as required by law. Of course, if anyone knows how to spot abuse of a chip monopoly, it’s Intel.

The dispute started when Apple sued Qualcomm for “abusing its clout” in the mobile chip industry. It got more combative when Apple began withholding patent royalties via suppliers like Foxconn. It argued that Qualcomm hasn’t licensed its tech under “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms, claiming that it’s charging five times more than all of its other licensors combined. (The US Federal Trade Commission filed a separate lawsuit against Qualcomm, and both South Korea and China slapped hefty fines on Qualcomm over its trade practices.)

Qualcomm, for its part, said Apple “unilaterally declared the contract terms unacceptable; the same terms that have applied to iPhones and cellular-enabled iPads for a decade.” It then turned around and sued Apple’s suppliers that use Qualcomm patents to claw back the royalties.

Intel got involved in the dispute because its LTE modems, used in some of Apple’s latest iPhones, allegedly infringe on Qualcomm patents. Qualcomm has demanded that Apple replace those parts with chips that use its own baseband modems. (Intel’s LTE modem is reportedly used on GSM-radio iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models from T-Mobile, AT&T and the rest of the world, while Qualcomm radios are used on CDMA models by Sprint and Verizon in the US).

Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (AOL)

Intel accused Qualcomm of further anti-competitive practices — namely, offering Apple lower licensing fees for using its chips exclusively. “These arrangements foreclosed rivals like Intel from competing for Apple’s vital business,” it said.

Intel believes that Qualcomm has a more sinister aim with its Apple patent dispute: Crushing Intel in the mobile chip market. “Qualcomm did not initiate this investigation to stop the alleged infringement of its patent rights; rather, its complaint is a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm’s only remaining rival,” it states. “These arrangements foreclosed rivals like Intel from competing for Apple’s vital business,” it said.

Overall, Intel believes that the ITC needs to consider Qualcomm’s pattern of what it calls “abusive” legal practices. “This twisted use of the Commission’s process is just the latest in a long line of anticompetitive strategies that Qualcomm has used to quash incipient and potential competitors and avoid competition on the merits.”

There’s a lot of irony in this, of course. In the ITC claim, Intel is depicting itself as the poor victim of a mobile chip monopolist, even though it was fined $ 1.4 billion by the EU for abusing its own PC chip monopoly with AMD. Nevertheless, its claim to be an underdog is effectively correct: Next to Qualcomm, Intel has a pitiful share of the mobile chip market. The ITC is set to study the complaint in August, and a trial is expected sometime next year.

Via: CNET

Source: Intel (PDF)

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iOS 11 could use the iPhone’s NFC chip for more than Apple Pay

Apple may have an awkward history of avoiding and then embracing NFC in the past, but new developments at this week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference indicate those days are long gone. Apple already announced new NFC functions coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 4, but according to documents for the upcoming iOS 11 release, the iPhone’s NFC chip might also be handling much more than just Apple Pay transactions and Passbook check-ins.

Although the feature didn’t get any airtime onstage Monday, iOS 11 Beta adds support for Core NFC to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. (And presumably future hardware as well.) In release docs, Core NFC is described as “a new framework for reading Near Field Communications (NFC) tags and data in NFC Data Exchange Format.” At the moment, the iPhone’s NFC chip is useless for anything other than Apple’s in-house payment system, but the new framework appears to let the chip in the latest iPhones read any tags — not just Apple Pay tags — and take action on them based on the phone’s location. NFC could open up more ways for iOS apps to communicate with connected devices and iPhones could also replace NFC-based keycards or transit passes like London’s Oyster card and the Bay Area’s Clipper card. In theory, Core NFC could also enable functions like tap-to-pair Bluetooth speakers — something Android users have been enjoying for awhile now — but it’s possible Apple could block such features to keep the “magic” pairing experience limited to AirPods and other devices with its proprietary W1 chip.

On the other hand, opening NFC could also invite potential privacy issues onto iOS. Like Bluetooth Beacons, NFC tags allow for seamless, location-based interactions for better or worse. While the ability to tap your phone to a movie poster and instantly bring up the trailer might seem magical, even anonymous data gathered from those sorts of interactions can paint a startling clear picture of a consumer.

Get all the latest news from WWDC 2017 here!

Via: WCCFTech

Source: Apple Developer

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Apple ‘Neural Engine’ chip could power AI on iPhones

Apple’s focused on increasing the speed of every new mobile processor generation, most recently pairing its quad core A10 Fusion chips with its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models last September. But to keep its devices competitive, Apple is building a secondary mobile processor dedicated to powering AI.

Sources told Bloomberg that Apple is developing the chips to participate in two key areas of artificial intelligence: Augmented reality and self-driving cars. The tech titan’s devices currently split AI tasks between two chips — the main processor and a GPU — but this new one, allegedly known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, has its own module dedicated to AI requests. Offloading those tasks should improve battery life, too.

Unfortunately, it’s unclear if the chip will come out this year. That puts Apple further behind Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon mobile chips, which already have a dedicated AI module, and Google’s Tensor Processing Units available in its Cloud Platform to do AI heavy lifting.

Apple announced it was deploying its own deep neural networks at last year’s WWDC, but that kind of machine learning happens on server racks, not mobile processors. Unlike the company’s differential privacy methods protecting data sent to Apple’s servers, the Neural Engine chip would let devices sift through data on their own, which would be faster and easier on the battery, just like the M7 processors did for motion back in 2013.

Source: Bloomberg

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Samsung’s chip business kept things looking up to start 2017

Samsung’s Q1 2017 earnings are in, showing the company’s highest quarterly profit since Q3 2013. That’s despite the Galaxy Note 7 recall, and a markdown in the price of its Galaxy Note 7, apparently because the company’s chip business (making memory, processors and camera sensors for phones) is booming. As a company, it brought home the $ 8.75 billion in operating profit expected, and looks forward to better results next quarter, since it will include sales of the new Galaxy S8 phones.

On a call with reporters, execs reaffirmed that reports of a reddish tint on some S8s are a “natural difference” in the OLED technology that it will let users tweak after a software update. Samsung also mentioned “the launch of a new flagship smartphone in the second half,” but didn’t tag the Galaxy Note name to whatever that presumably large-screened device will be. It also did not play into any expectations for an OLED iPhone that it could supply screens for, simply saying that “YoY revenue growth in the OLED business is forecast on the back of increased flexible panel shipments in the second half.”

Source: Samsung

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Apple’s next custom Mac chip could do a lot more

Intel processors have powered Apple’s Mac computers for over a decade now, but Apple has also found success designing its own A-series ARM-based chips for the iPhone and iPad. While the company isn’t going to dump Intel chips in the Mac any time soon, a report from Bloomberg indicates that Apple at least intends to put its foot in the water and test out designing its own silicon for the Mac.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Ian King, Apple is building an ARM-based chip that’ll offload the Mac’s “Power Nap” features from the standard Intel processor as a way to save batter life. Power Nap currently lets the Mac run software updates, download email and calendar updates, sync to iCloud, back up to Time Machine drives and a number of other features while the computer is asleep. Some of these features only work when plugged in, though — perhaps with a chip that consumers less energy, Power Nap’s capabilities could be expanded.

This could also be a first step towards a move away from Intel processors entirely, although Bloomberg says such a move would not happen in the immediate future. But Apple has invested a lot of money in its own series of chips since 2010 and could have more freedom to update the Mac without having to rely on Intel’s schedule.

It’s worth noting that this rumored Power Nap chip wouldn’t be the first Apple-designed chip to make it into a Mac. That honor would go to the T1, an ARM-based chip that showed up in the new MacBook Pro last fall. That chip controls the laptop’s Touch Bar and the Touch ID sensor but otherwise doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting. Apple has been pretty quiet about the chip, but it seems that the next MacBook Pro could have another ARM chip — maybe the T2? — that takes more tasks away from the main Intel processor. If that’s the case, we probably won’t know for a while, as Apple probably won’t update the MacBook Pro lineup again until this fall.

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