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Intel Threatens To Revoke AMD's x86 License

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the toddlers-fighting-over-a-toy dept.

Intel 476

theraindog writes "AMD's former manufacturing division opened for business last week as GlobalFoundries, but the spin-off may run afoul of AMD's 2001 cross-licensing agreement with Intel. Indeed, Intel has formally accused AMD of violating the agreement, and threatened to terminate the company's licenses in 60 days if a resolution is not found. Intel contends that GlobalFoundries is not a subsidiary of AMD, and thus is not covered by the licensing agreement. AMD has fired back, insisting that it has done nothing wrong, and that Intel's threat constitutes a violation of the deal. At stake is not only AMD's ability to build processors that use Intel's x86 technology, but also Intel's ability to use AMD's x86-64 tech in its CPUs."

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if they do that (2, Insightful)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215715)

It's the end of the x86 dominance. People will just look harder to find alternatives.

Re:if they do that (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27215745)

Bah hah hah, silly idealist.

The two-party system is here to stay in American politics and the x86 stranglehold.

Re:if they do that (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216203)

Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!

Re:if they do that (5, Funny)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215753)

I, for one, welcome our new strong ARM'd overlords.

Poor Microsoft (3, Interesting)

zigfreed (1441541) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215943)

Long live StrongSparcPC_x64! Poor Microsoft, how on earth would they sell Windows 7?

Re:if they do that (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27216097)

sounds RISCy.

Re:if they do that (4, Informative)

SebaSOFT (859957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216469)

Agree, ARM has been gaining grounds due to it's low (as none) power consumption when idle. So long backward compatibility tough.

Re:if they do that (4, Insightful)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215773)

People will just look harder to find alternatives

People who? Do you really think that 99% of the computer users even know what x86 means?

Re:if they do that (4, Insightful)

ADRA (37398) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215833)

-They- being the PC manufacturers that sell most PC's these days. -They- being the OS vendors who would be into a world of hurt trying to support every differing configuration of the x86+ based architectures....

Since x86_64 is a superset of x86, would this mean AMD couldn't even sell x86_64 based chips either?

Re:if they do that (5, Informative)

SIR_Taco (467460) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215957)

Since x86_64 is a superset of x86, would this mean AMD couldn't even sell x86_64 based chips either?

Funny thing is that AMD licensed/agreed to share their x86_64 arch back to Intel.
So essentially it's:

"I'll let you play with mine if I can play with yours."

Now a 3rd party (loosely affiliated with AMD) is playing with Intel's x86, and that wasn't part of the agreement.

Re:if they do that (4, Funny)

jjrockman (802957) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216095)

"I'll let you play with mine if I can play with yours."

Man, if I had a nickel...

Re:if they do that (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27216635)

You'd probably swallow it by accident.

Re:if they do that (5, Insightful)

Grave (8234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216393)

Intel has no intention of preventing AMD from making x86 chips, because they know they'll be unable to manufacture any of their own chips as well (with x86-64 licensing coming from AMD). This is purely meant to ensure that anybody who might come along and acquire the foundry business doesn't wind up trying to produce their own x86 chips. Or at least, I'd like to believe such...truthfully, I wouldn't put it past Intel to just be making a money grab here.

Either way, holding AMD in violation of their agreement means they would effectively forfeit 64-bit licensing rights as well, and that makes no sense for them.

Re:if they do that (5, Insightful)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216039)

Yes. You said it yourself: x86-64 is a superset of x86; the architecture is reliant on instructions from the legacy set. No license to the legacy set, no dice on building the superset.

But that's okay, because there's no way Intel would ever pull the trigger. This is just corporate posturing to get a better crosslicensing agreement and a slice of the Foundry's pie. They'll fight it out for a couple more weeks and then a "settlement" will be reached behind some closed doors, probably with the Foundry agreeing not to mint over N non-x86 chips and some cash changing hands in whichever direction.

Re:if they do that (2, Insightful)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216449)

I don't normally do the "Mod Parent Up" comments, but this really deserves it.

But that's okay, because there's no way Intel would ever pull the trigger. This is just corporate posturing to get a better crosslicensing agreement and a slice of the Foundry's pie. They'll fight it out for a couple more weeks and then a "settlement" will be reached behind some closed doors, probably with the Foundry agreeing not to mint over N non-x86 chips and some cash changing hands in whichever direction.

That pretty much sums it all up. Grandstanding.

Re:if they do that (2, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216291)

Just like apple was in a world of hurt when they dropped the more elegant PowerPC for ix86?

Yup, really killed them off didn't it.

( I still think it was a bad move, but no sense harping on it now.. )

A complete change over would allow a more controlled HAL standard to be developed too.

Re:if they do that (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216667)

According to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia article on x86_64 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X86-64), AMD designed this spec. I'm not sure if that translates to ownership, though I'd like to think that it does.
Even still, the question I'm wondering is if x86_64 uses licensed bits of x86 instructions in its specification. Because if that is the case, wouldn't that mean that Intel can theoretically have this also prohibited from use as well?

Re:if they do that (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215987)

People who? Do you really think that 99% of the computer users even know what x86 means?

No, but most users don't need to. Microsoft does, and Microsoft has no reason to want any one other firm to be indispensable to PC vendors the way Microsoft is. So, if the AMD cross-licensing agreement goes away and there isn't serious competition for Intel in the x86 world, I'd expect Microsoft to start supporting alternatives.

Re:if they do that (1)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216579)

I think it's a bit of a catch 22. Microsoft might undertake such a porting venture only if the new hardware platform is sufficiently popular (30-40% of the market?). BUT - how do you get there without having Windows run on it in the first place?

Re:if they do that (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27216669)

99% is a really high target man. I doubt that 99% of computer users know where the power switch is.

Maybe you should look to 5% or 10%

Re:if they do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27215785)

People will just look harder to find alternatives.

People will not find an alternative because Windows doesn't run on it; for the desktop world. Will the server world be any different? Not sure; desktop will be x86 and intel.

Re:if they do that (5, Insightful)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215853)

If x86 dies, which it is in the process of doing, Microsoft will port Windows to run on SPARC, ARM, PPC, whatever comes next. Microsoft has gotten where it is by being good at business, and being good at business does not consist of pushing a dying platform that it has no vested interested in. Windows has been ported to other architectures before, and is inherently portable.

Re:if they do that (3, Interesting)

bucky0 (229117) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216049)

But the big draw of windows is the inertia of 1,000,000 one-off apps that businesses have written. Microsoft would be scared of people moving to another architecture just because if people were making a (painful) switch anyway, they might look at the alternatives.

Re:if they do that (3, Insightful)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216347)

We have virtualization now - If I can run a legacy app in a dos box, who cares what the actual hardware is?

Re:if they do that (2, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216069)

Windows is inherently portable? Thus speaks someone who hasn't tried switching the motherboard and CPU between Intel and AMD on a HP box, and watched Windows failing to boot because the OEM only included a HAL library for one of them.

Yes, there were Alpha and MIPS versions of Windows NT. No, there haven't been any for a long, long time. If it was just a matter of passing a different CPU flag at the top level of the compiler, it would have cost MS next to nothing to continue to provide support for XP, Vista and W7. Windows has become quite married to x86 over the years, and I doubt that switching would be trivial.

And, of course, it wouldn't do much good if Windows would run on a different CPU, if all the apps which people run aren't also recompiled for the new CPU. Windows binaries aren't exactly p-code...

Re:if they do that (4, Insightful)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216107)

Windows is still maintained on Itanium; both it and the Alpha port could run x86 binaries at close to native (or, at one point in the Alpha's lifetime, faster.) I'm no Microsoft fanboy, but I don't think they're stupid.

Re:if they do that (1)

jsrlepage (696948) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216523)

[...] but I don't think they're stupid.

You must be new here.

Re:if they do that (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27216197)

If it was just a matter of passing a different CPU flag at the top level of the compiler, it would have cost MS next to nothing to continue to provide support for XP, Vista and W7. Windows has become quite married to x86 over the years, and I doubt that switching would be trivial.

It IS just a matter of passing a different CPU flag. MS discontinued the MIPS, PPC, and Alpha versions because there was not only no demand for it, but the few people who bought it tied up lots of MS customer service time bitching that X86 programs didn't run on MIPs/PPC/Alpha.

Windows is no more married to X86 than Linux or OS X. In fact, I can tell you where to get a fairly modern Windows Kernel running on a PPC chip in pretty much any electronics store: The XBox 360.

The NT kernel was designed from the ground up to be portable. The only real reason it's currently only supporting X86 is because that's the only place there's any sort of demand. If X86 dies (And it won't. AMD and Intel both have lots to lose, though AMD more than Intel here), Microsoft will port over to PPC (Or whatever), throw on an emulation layer, and probably take the opportunity to break a whole bunch of crappy stuff in Windows that's maintained simply for backwards compatibility.

Re:if they do that (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216211)

Yes, there were Alpha and MIPS versions of Windows NT. No, there haven't been any for a long, long time.

And, if I remember rightly, at least the Alpha version of NT was simply the Intel version of NT, packaged with a VM.

Don't know about the MIPS version, though.

Re:if they do that (1)

slaker (53818) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216507)

I don't believe that's correct. NT4 had alpha-native code for the OS and as I recall Digital offered some software to translate x86 binaries into Alpha-native system calls in roughly the same way that WINE stuff runs Windows now.

I used to support Alphas and Motorola systems on NT4, and I did get to see a beta build of Windows 2000 on an Alpha at least once.

Re:if they do that (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216239)

Well, for starters, if you change the mobo and cpu, you're technically changing the system and violating the OEM licence.

The OEM manufacturer, thus, has no reason to include a HAL for the alternate chip since it was never designed or licenced to run on it.

That aside, if x86 does die out, MS WILL find a way to make Windows work on it. Basically their cash flow would depend on it.

Re:if they do that (1)

dow (7718) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216387)

I was under the impression that in the developement of Alpha, PPC and Sparc versions, Windows NT was made into a small and efficient micro kernel, with most of the higher functions working on the hardware abstraction layer you mentioned. I'm pretty sure I remember reading that the x86-64 versions of XP was fairly easy for Microsoft to produce, as much of the 64 bit support was already in the Alpha version.

Re:if they do that (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216085)

The trouble isn't porting Windows; but in dragging all the x86 legacy stuff with it. With the exception of a modest amount of .NET CLR stuff, which should actually be platform agnostic, virtually all of the windows ecosystem is on x86. And, as is mentioned every single time linux migration is discussed, most of that is never, ever, ever going to get ported. Obsolete software from dead companies, in house stuff, old versions that are uneconomic to upgrade, etc. Not to mention drivers.

Re:if they do that (2, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216105)

Windows is not the issue... the millions of x86-dependent applications would be the issue. This isn't Linux where you just apt-get the version for your architecture.

They'd have to do something in emulation like Apple did with Rosetta, but then the non-x86 version of Windows would run most applications slowly and so PC magazine and consumer reports and your friendly neighborhood geek would recommend sticking with x86, since MS doesn't have Apple's option of simply making the old architecture go away.

Re:if they do that (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216151)

Back in the day, Microsoft had ports of NT for Alpha, PPC, and MIPS.

Alpha and MIPS are both dead and gone, while SPARC and PPC have corporate overlords who seem to have no interest in catering to the consumer market. (It also seems a bit unclear as to why Sun continue to develop and produce the SPARC, given the huge costs that must be associated with it)

Re:if they do that (2, Informative)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216719)

It also seems a bit unclear as to why Sun continue to develop and produce the SPARC

Because there is a demand for it, and it does things that x86 doesn't. 8 cores * 8 threads = awesome virtualization abilities. The ability for SPARCs to scale up in a linear fashion to > 100 cores in a single general-purpose SMP box positions it in the high-end datacenter realm, where PPC is, but not x86. Plus, SUN isn't going it alone. Fujitsu is on the SPARC bandwagon with them.

Re:if they do that (4, Funny)

Daravon (848487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216163)

Windows on PPC... Then Microsoft will tout how much faster PPC is than x86 based processors, and the world ends in an infinite loop.

Re:if they do that (3, Interesting)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216339)

Funny that you should say that, because if the world ends at the infinite loop, we'll all be running Mac OS X [google.com] .

Re:if they do that (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216273)

If x86 dies, which it is in the process of doing

Lol. Cite? Or to put it another way, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated".

At this point it's just silly and uninformed to make such a claim, as if all you think would need to happen is "compile Windows on [whatever]", "Use linux!", "the web will make ISA irrelevent!" or whatever stunningly ridiculous claptrap people use as an explanation for why this will happen soon.

x86 is dying (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216375)

Netcraft confirms ? ...

Okay, i'm not even going to bother going further with this stupid joke....

Re:if they do that (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216063)

Yeah, you can always be sure that those chines builders of laptops and desktops will ALWAYS push MS. Why, they would never think to build something new and cheap and use Linux to lower their costs.

and the answer is... (2, Insightful)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215793)

And the answer is... powerPC! But only if someone takes an interest in working on the chip to lower power consumption and heat output. My dual G5 runs great but the sucker sounds like a jet engine taking off when it starts doing something computationally intensive.

Re:and the answer is... (2, Interesting)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215925)

I recently acquired a PowerStation made by FixStar, the same people who make Yellow Dog Linux. Since Apple and IBM gave up on Power-based workstations, this is among the last you can get, and it's quite nifty, and fairly reasonably priced ($1250 for quad PPC, 2GB RAM). If you have $6000 extra to throw at it there's also a Cell expansion board. My only real issue with it is lack of compatible 3d graphics hardware.

Re:if they do that (2, Funny)

ORBAT (1050226) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215795)

Yeah. And it's the Year of the Linux Desktop(tm) too, right?

Re:if they do that (4, Insightful)

nametaken (610866) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215891)

I heard this argument when it was "people will stop using windows".

It's nice to think about and all, but wake me up when it actually happens.

Re:if they do that (1, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215939)

I would have said that 4-6 years ago. But now that Intel retook the thrown for x86 chips, I doubt we will see to many people looking for alternatives.

Re:if they do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27216057)

Yeah, yeah, we know, and then you'll rule over all of us with your mountain of hoarded Transmeta Crusoe chips, and you'll crush the fools who all laughed — laughed, mind you — and the world will be a happier place and cancer will be cured and then Jesus will stop by to visit.

*sigh* Same thing we always get around here whenever Intel's stock price drops...

Re:if they do that (5, Insightful)

Tiber (613512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216061)

HAHAHAHA.

I'm on my way to buy SUN stock right now.

Oops, maybe not.

OK, I'm off to buy stock in HP!

Errr...

I'm going to purchase some DEC stock!

Oh fooey.

Re:if they do that (2, Funny)

neokushan (932374) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216157)

CELLebrate good times, come on!

Re:if they do that (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216289)

People by and large want machines with decent performance that can run thier existing applications (Which means running windows, prefferablly the 32 bit intel versions)

AMD/GlobalFoundries has the most to lose here IMO since right now most people are running 32 bit operating systems and in any case x86-64 is an extention of x86. Intel probablly has the clout to get MS to make desktop editions of ia64 windows again if they have to.

Still intel does potentially have a lot to lose from this too and I strongly suspect this will be settled (and the exact terms of the settlement will be kept secret).

Re:if they do that (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216405)

Does AMD have any architectures not based on x86 to fall back on?

Re:if they do that (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216683)

AMD does much more than CPUs, especially after having acquired ATI. The would be much smaller without their CPU line, but there is still enough to run a business on.

Re:if they do that (1)

slummy (887268) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216399)

Hi, meet Mr. GPU.

Re:if they do that (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216411)

Not necessarily. Just because Intel can charge what the market will bear doesn't mean they will. Less competition means they can charge more, but presumably they're smart enough not to charge so much they destroy the market.

Anyway, won't happen. If AMD loses its right to make x86 chips, then Intel loses its right to make x64 chips. That's a lose-lose situation. Intel is just using the AMD reorg to gain a little leverage. They'll renegotiate the agreement to give slightly more favorable terms to Intel and that will be the end of it.

Re:if they do that (2, Informative)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216551)

You're dreaming.

Intel has 18-wheeler-truckloads more resources for marketing than AMD will ever hope to garner. While there will always be the minority that will seek alternatives, Intel has the power to win them over, whether it'd be through financial incentives, equipment "giveaways" or brute-force, corporate style.

If AMD loses its x86 license, I'll speculate that AMD will have to choose the three obvious paths:
  • 1. Sell itself to Intel, thus unilaterally giving Intel ~100% control over mainstream consumer microprocessor fabrication, production and sales, OR
  • 2. Throw lots of money and time into developing a new processor spec (which will take forever and has a high risk of failure), OR
  • 3. Use an older or less popular spec (The resurrection of PowerPC?).

I don't want to see AMD go down, but it's kind of sad to know that Intel has the power to do exactly that.

MAD (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27215765)

At stake is not only AMD's ability to build processors that use Intel's x86 technology, but also Intel's ability to use AMD's x86-64 tech in its CPUs.

So, surely this is a case of mutually assured destruction for both isn't?

Re:MAD (3, Interesting)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216093)

So, surely this is a case of mutually assured destruction for both isn't?

Something like that, but not perfectly symmetrically. While x86_64 is well-enough established that it would be inconvenient for Intel to have to go back to x86 and build a new, non-derivative extension with similar capabilities, it would be less of a problem for them than AMD losing the rights to use x86-anything.

Given that Intel and AMD don't have serious competition for desktop PCs right now, its possible that the a result that hurts Intel a lot but AMD more in the short term could benefit Intel in the long term, though really the intent here is almost certainly to get concessions from AMD on the basis that Intel may be able to prevail in court, and AMD stands to lose more if the agreement is terminated; it is extremely unlikely that Intel's goal is to terminate the agreement.

Re:MAD (3, Insightful)

powerlord (28156) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216439)

Something like that, but not perfectly symmetrically. While x86_64 is well-enough established that it would be inconvenient for Intel to have to go back to x86 and build a new, non-derivative extension with similar capabilities, it would be less of a problem for them than AMD losing the rights to use x86-anything.

Like heck.

It would force both AMD and Intel to pull their chips temporarily.

The only thing Intel could sell is the Atom (32 bit only), and the original version of the Core (again, 32 bit only).

Yeah ... they'd still have a product to sell on the market, but a staggering amount of their products (most of the Core line) would simply stop.

Likewise AMD would still have the Geode and other chips to sell, but their desktop/server line would have to stop.

MS would probably continue okay (I hear Win7 runs okay on the Atom and old Core processors), but it would mean that we'd be back at 32bit limits for things like memory.

The groups that would be hurt the most (beyond AMD and Intel)? Computer retailers like Dell and Apple (whose products would have to be redesigned), and the American computer economy as a whole (I'm sure you'll be able to find AMD and Intel chips made in China that would keep shuffling off the assembly line just fine).

Re:MAD (1)

Mr_Magick (996141) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216553)

If Intel pulls AMD's license AMD is all but destroyed. However, I see a huge monopoly case being brought to court very quickly after any such turn of events.

Intel has no true competition in the x86 market other then AMD. A point that no small amount of layers are more then willing to point out to the right judge.

AMD is a dyslexic MAD (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216751)

So, surely this is a case of mutually assured destruction for both isn't?

Only if it comes to a final shootout, which will never happen.

But considering what usually happens when a show of force happens, the bigger guy wins. In this case, Intel. It's Intel who forced a confrontation, and they probably will gain better conditions in small print in a contract somewhere.

Otherwise, nothing to see here, please move along.

Well this should be fun to watch (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27215767)

This has been brewing for years. AMD with it's anti-competitive lawsuit against Intel, and now this. AMD's suit is mostly won, but Intels new suit could really make things interesting.

AMD's next line of Phenom II are coming out soon and AMD doing better in terms of sales. Intels feeling the pinch from Netbook sales pulling out the rug from the I7's anticipated sales. The market is changing and it favors AMD in the terms that people are spending less. Intel has a lot more to loose then AMD and that's why this is going to be so good.

If Intel wins the consumer will lose, if AMD holds its ground Intel will suffer a large drop in sales and the giant of the company will fall. Any sort of drop in sales from Intel and it will have to make major cutbacks and Intel will loose all sorts of momentum just to save it's cash. The middle ground is what we all will hope for but even that could really hurt the Intel giant.

What an opportunity . . . for lawyers! (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215799)

Complicated factual and legal scenarios, deep pockets, core business problems . . . This is a dream scenario--for the lawyers.

The lawyers will be able to earn so much out of this mess!

. . . that's why this tempest ought to blow over pretty soon. T

Business as usual (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215809)

Intel and AMD like to squabble about licensing every few years. Probably in an attempt to broker a deal that is even more favorable than the last. They usually spend some time posturing in court, bare their claws a little, then settle with a new cross-licensing agreement. If Intel gets too pushy, the feds start staring at them REALLY hard. Which tends to make Intel fall in line.

Strictly speaking, Intel's argument is pointless. Yes, their deal is with AMD. But AMD's foundry only manufactures the chips, it does not design them. (Unless I somehow misunderstood their fabless plan.) Since the fab creates the chips on behalf of AMD, the licensing is not violated.

That's my 2 cents worth, anyway. I'm not a lawyer, but I doubt one would make many more comments without viewing the legalese between the two companies.

Re:Business as usual (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216029)

Strictly speaking, Intel's argument is pointless. Yes, their deal is with AMD. But AMD's foundry only manufactures the chips, it does not design them. (Unless I somehow misunderstood their fabless plan.) Since the fab creates the chips on behalf of AMD, the licensing is not violated.

It may not be that easy. The Intel/AMD license agreement, for all its notoriety, is completely confidential and thus nobody knows exactly what is in it except for a small number of people at both companies. Despite that, it has long been suspected that part of the agreement is that AMD would not manufacture more than a certain % of its chips at a 3rd party fab, which FoundryCo -- wait, it's GlobalFoundries now, slightly less stupid name -- would almost certainly count as once fully spun off.

Strictly speaking, though, nobody outside the upper echelons knows. The only thing I'm 100% certain of is that AMD thought about the cross-licensing agreement when they came up with the idea for spinning off the fabs, and would not have done it if they thought it would cost them their license. But of course companies can differ in their self-serving legal reasoning, and who knows maybe they knew they were taking a chance and felt that the global anti-trust inquiries and the threat of losing AMD64 licensing would keep Intel playing ball?

Fuzzy on x86 IP (4, Interesting)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215811)

Maybe I'm missing something, but how can the x86 architecture itself be subject to copyright? Isn't the protected property not the publicly documented instruction set, but the implementation thereof?

Re:Fuzzy on x86 IP (5, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215921)

Maybe I'm missing something, but how can the x86 architecture itself be subject to copyright? Isn't the protected property not the publicly documented instruction set, but the implementation thereof?

I believe it's not the core x86 instructions, but rather all the various MMX and SSE extensions that have been tacked on in the past 10-15 years. And as mentioned in the summary, AMD's x64 extensions are at stake, too.

More than instructions (I think) (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216631)

I believe the cross licensing goes way beyond just the instruction set - that's public knowledge, you wouldn't be able to write a compiler if you didn't know what instruction did what!

I think there are all kinds of implementation details to actually processing the instructions that are involved in the patents (on both sides).

Now that I think about it, a lot of these processing details are probably infringed upon by other non-x86 chips, there are only so many ways to do things... there must be other patent licensing deals out there that don't make the news as often as the x86 lawsuits.

Re:Fuzzy on x86 IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27216027)

Ever heard of patents?

Re:Fuzzy on x86 IP (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216045)

Intel has a lot of patents that essentially cover the implementation of x86 in any meaningful way. The way x86-64 was strapped onto x86 is on the other hand owned by AMD.

They play nicely, and they both get to use each others' innovations.

Re:Fuzzy on x86 IP (2, Interesting)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216161)

Not copyright. Patents. [cnet.com] .

In other words, Intel claims patents over much of the technology that makes an x86 an x86, and AMD agreed (back in 2001--the patent cross-licensing agreement that's in dispute in this issue). AMD could hardly walk away from the agreement now* and continue to manufacture x86-descended CPUs--their previous acceptance of the patents would be evidence against them in Intel's inevitable patent infringement suit.

No, I Am Not A Lawyer. And I'm sure it's nuanced much more finely than this. But that's kinda the Sesame Street version of how this is shaping up.

Patents.

* Yes, I know, AMD isn't disclaiming the license agreement; they're saying the new Globalfoundaries [globalfoundries.com] fab has rights to those licenses because it's an AMD subsidiary; Intel's saying they aren't and therefore don't inherit the licenses. If it becomes a full-out patent lawsuit nuclear exchange, AMD might be in a position of manufacturing x86s without license, which would be bad, or not manufacturing x86s at all, which would be worse, or not allowing Globalfoundaries to manufacture x86s, which would be stupid.

Re:Fuzzy on x86 IP (2, Interesting)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216215)

Maybe I'm missing something, but how can the x86 architecture itself be subject to copyright? Isn't the protected property not the publicly documented instruction set, but the implementation thereof?

My understanding is that if you wanted to make a 286 clone designed from scratch, you would probably be in the clear. OTOH, if you want modern extensions like MMX, or even SSE/AMD64, then you need a license for the more modern variations. That said, the whole field is deeply complicated and unclear. Some parts of the situation have never really been tested in court so anybody claiming to have a 100% understanding of the legal issues is almost certainly mistaken.

More... (3, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215813)

... stupid intellectual property bullshit.

What's really at stake (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215847)

At stake is not only AMD's ability to build processors that use Intel's x86 technology, but also Intel's ability to use AMD's x86-64 tech in its CPUs."

At stake is money and corporate posturing.

This is just another day of corporate King Of The Hill.

The ideal scenario would be if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27215861)

...the problem of inefficiency that is the x86 ISA just solved itself from this. Hello, PowerPC. Hello, ARM.

Re:The ideal scenario would be if... (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216327)

A better scenario, even, is if people would quit pretending there's anything wrong with x86.

Intel will license it (5, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215895)

Intel will definitely work this out. They're almost forced to license x86 to prevent being labeled a monopoly. Many believe the only reason they licensed it in the first place was to prevent legal action by the justice department. With a competitor making similar chips it's hard to claim they strong-arm computer manufacturers into using their products.

Re:Intel will license it (2, Interesting)

hemp (36945) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216237)

The real reason for the licensing had nothing to do with the Judicial system.

In order to bid on certain government/DOD contracts you are required to have a second source for most items. This to prevent all of the usual issues you normally get when dealing with a single source, namely they go out of business and you can't find them any more.

By allowing AMD to license and manufacture, Intel was able to bid on more government contracts. This all occurred back in the 80's prior to Intel dominating the CPU field.

Re:Intel will license it (1)

Lost Race (681080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216321)

Many believe the only reason they licensed it in the first place was to prevent legal action by the justice department.

They licensed long before there was any danger of monopoly accusations. The reason was that certain large customers would not commit to any long term purchase contracts without an available second source (in case the primary source went out of business or decided to stop production of the item). AMD et al were basically a checkbox on the requirements list to make a few big sales.

Old and busted = Mhz (4, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215901)

New hotness = Lawyers on retainer!

I for one, will miss the Megahertz Myth race.. But hey, it might go crazy when AMD has a GPU as the Vector CPU in the computer, and Intel has to sell a 63-bit processor.

I guess it will be exciting to watch new developments again.. Seems they've gotten a little to comfortable with each others positions lately..

It won't succeed (2, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27215945)

If Intel becomes the exclusive provider of x86 chips, they'll be smacked by the government with anti-trust litigation (Note: I did not say WHICH government, my fellow silly Americans). It was the same with Apple being the company Microsoft pointed to when it was hit with anti-trust. Intel is simply hoping that AMD is too fearful to engage in litigation, or risk folding the business, simply to expose Intel to government action -- they are betting that AMD simply accepts whatever monthly tribute is required by Intel, thus assuring it's continued irrelevance without being wholly dismissed out of the market. If AMD still had its balls, they'd call the bluff and tell Intel to go to hell -- because Intel needs AMD a lot more than they're letting on.

Re:It won't succeed (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216207)

If Intel becomes the exclusive provider of x86 chips, they'll be smacked by the government with anti-trust litigation (Note: I did not say WHICH government, my fellow silly Americans).

Whether or not they are the sole manufacturer, since any manufacturer depends on a license from Intel, they are still a monopoly insofar as x86 chips are a valid market for anti-trust analysis; and, more relevantly, are arguably a monopoly, therefore, where desktop and traditional laptop PC CPUs are concerned, which is somewhat more likely to be an appropriate market. OTOH, in most jurisdictions, as I understand it, (and certainly this is the case in the US) just having a de facto monopoly isn't enough for anti-trust litigation, you have to leverage the market improperly. Enforcing an existing agreement that is, in itself, not an unfair leveraging of the market probably won't usually qualify, so just ending the AMD agreement because of a breach by AMD (if that has actually occurred) would probably not be a problem.

Spansion vs. GlobalFoundries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27215971)

Would someone care to enlighten me about the difference? I Spansion was AMD's former manufacturing division because all AMD Austin fab employees have been Spansion employees for several years now.

Re:Spansion vs. GlobalFoundries (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216653)

Spansion only ever made Flash memory, AFAIK. GlobalFoundries makes processors, which is why Intel can make these threats.

Another difference: GlobalFoundries still exists, and is making a new fab in Saratoga. Spansion, on the other hand, is trading for two cents.

Patents are bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27215977)

This is just another example.

For other examples on how intellectual monopoly is bad go here:

http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/againstnew.htm

GF may not be a "subsidiary" according to Intel (2, Interesting)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216035)

...but isn't that generally what a company that is in majority controlled by another company called?

Also, would AMD really have been so short-sighted as to sign a cross-licensing agreement with Intel that wouldn't allow AMD to contract an unlicensed third party to fabricate AMD's designs under AMD's licenses as an agent of AMD?

Re:GF may not be a "subsidiary" according to Intel (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216297)

but isn't that generally what a company that is in majority controlled by another company called?

What something is generally called is often entirely irrelevant to the definitions of terms in a particular contract. (There are a number of "general" definitions of "subsidiary", and they conflict: one is a firm wholly owned or controlled by another, another is one in which the parent has majority control, or in which an entities which are themselves subsidiaries of the parent collectively have majority control. Because of conflicts and ambiguities in general usage, terms that are important in contracts are usually defined precisely in the contract.)

Re:GF may not be a "subsidiary" according to Intel (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216601)

Yes, yes. I'm sure AMD's raft of lawyers is as specifically aware of the definitions that matter in this specific instance as are Intel's raft of lawyers. If there is a specific definition to reduce ambiguity, then they both have copies. If not, then they can argue either way and the judge can choose his or her own definition.

In other news (0)

tunafreedolphin (1033472) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216201)

Cats and dogs still hate each other. Oh wait, who cares.

x86 was a hack anyway (3, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216217)

Not trying to sound like a troll here, but x86 should have been retired decades ago. It designed in a totally different era and was never intended to scale well and its been a series of hacks to get it to do so. ( it was impossible to predict where we were going back then, the cpu industry was far too immature )

Sure, they have done wonders keeping it moving, but its long since time to start over with a clean architecture.

My preference would be MIPS or SPARC inspired, but thats just me, either way its time to move on/up.

Re:x86 was a hack anyway (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27216689)

Starting over has been tried at least two ways I know of... Itanium and transmeta. Both have failed miserably. Care to bet on what would happen if some other one tried to come out?

Re:x86 was a hack anyway (1)

Jamie's Nightmare (1410247) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216693)

You should be OK. I'd wager you'd only be marked as a troll if you replaced "x86" with Unix. Though it would be an abuse of power in both cases.

good (1)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216225)

i hope they do, and AMD start producing cheap reliable PowerPC chips so we can all move over to a decent platform.

Re:good (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216329)

i hope they do, and AMD start producing cheap reliable PowerPC chips so we can all move over to a decent platform.

Right...so instead of having Intel's patents to worry about, they'd have Apple, IBM, and Motorola's patents to worry about...

Re:good (1)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216371)

ok then, pure amd64 cpu's? would most likly be a the best idea....

At one level (2, Interesting)

mutantSushi (950662) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216267)

At one level, wouldn't it have been a smarter, lower-litigation-cost approach if AMD had spun off their NON-FOUNDRY (design) operations but kept all the x86 rights under the same house as the foundry? (if the design company wants to make x86 parts with other foundries, as they have done previously if I'm correct, they simply designate it as "design contracting" FOR the Foundry Company which holds the x86 rights (profit stream going to AMD, but that's a contract detail irrelevant to x86 licence).

At another level, what IF Intel ends AMD's x86 licence?
Isn't the point of the licence in the first place that AMD also has their own signifigant patents they could sue Intel for violating? I just don't see the logic in this, especially given that Intel seems to be doing GREAT compared to AMD, and AMD's continued existence gives Intel an anti-monopoly defense as long as they continue to compete in the x86 market.

At another level, this certainly seems big enough an issue to bring up the legitimacy of patent monopolies with regards to anti-trust law. US law doesn't generally hold (business) monopolies to be illegal per se, but I believe EU law *DOES*, and if Intel would gain a mainstream CPU monopoly by kicking AMD out of the x86 business, there would be repurcussions. If there was no x86 competition (VIA of course "exists"), the chances of EU nullifying x86 patents (or establishing "open" standardized licencing ala MP3) would seem to rise dramatically, which seems counter to Intel's interests.

Maybe Intel is scared of globalfoundaries? (3, Interesting)

foxalopex (522681) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216351)

Hmm, I wonder if the reason for this is Intel is scared of Globalfoundaries? If I'm not mistaken, the folks who bought the foundry from AMD are the same folks who are building in Dubai. You know the place where money flows like water and they're willing to waste billions to build custom islands? If that's the case, it is possible that AMD could be ramping up their production and process dramatically which would negate any gains Intel has. AMD also seems to have a more market friendly history with other companies than Intel has. Perhaps this is Intel's attempt to gain a monopoly before their ship sinks?

"open" patent licencing as remedy to monopoly (0)

mutantSushi (950662) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216397)

Monopolies *ARE* illegal (irrespective of other issues, e.g. fraud), contray to US.
EU cannot be ignored by Intel.
If EU forced Intel to licence x86 on an "open"/equal basis (ala MP3), that would be AMD's ideal scenario, since as it would be court ordered, it would be a reasonable licence fee to start, AND it would not be subject to "give and take" over AMD's OWN patents implicated in x86-64: They would be completely free to sue Intel for whatever they can get over the x64 patents, and would have no fear of losing their licence/countersuits re: the core x86 patents.

Own goal, Intel.

Stupid. (2, Interesting)

Shads (4567) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216473)

I personally think that's a damn stupid threat for Intel to make. AMD is arguably the only company that is preventing Intel from being broken up as a monopoly... you don't threaten to bury your only competition when you're nearly a monopoly. The various governments around the world aren't appreciative of that type of behavior. Unless they would like to be broken into dozens of pieces.

Don't be part of the problem (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216559)

There isn't anything in x86 or it's various extensions that could be a licensing issue.

Intel, AMD, the patent lawyers and the government are the crazies here for trying to claim ownership of not only the most widespread processor architecture that is decades old, but of improvements over that architecture that are trivial to anyone who would want to improve it.

The patent craziness is causing real damage to the economy and innovation and it has to stop.

Dont see why they need a licence (2, Insightful)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27216563)

First of all, AMDs foundry probably is considered to have inherited the licence so I dont know if Intels claims really hold up.

Its been a long time since the chip architecture and schematic of AMDs chips have been directly based on Intels, if they ever have been. The only thing they share is the instruction set. Instruction sets are basically a language or communication protocol and these should not be copyrightable, just as someone could not copyright HTML, IM protocols or English. Only an implementation of software of these can be copyrighted not the language itself.

In my opinion, AMD does not need any licence to implement the ISA in the first place, just as a licence is not required to implement an SQL server or a computer language. Languages are simply not copywritable.

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