Qualcomm faces an antitrust investigation in Europe, even as it seeks to end a probe of its alleged monopoly practices in China.
Reuters reported that Qualcomm is looking for an amicable resolution of an investigation conducted by China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) over suspicions that it holds a monopoly in the Chinese telecoms market.
The investigation involves allegations that Qualcomm’s China subsidiary has been overcharging and exploiting its position in the wireless communications sector.
The antitrust probe of Qualcomm has been ongoing since last November, when the firm revealed that it was under investigation by the NDRC, though at the time it said the NDRC had not revealed the substance of the investigation.
In February, the NDRC declared it had received complaints against Qualcomm from the China Communications Industry Association, regarding its market position and patent fees it charged Chinese mobile phone manufacturers.
While the NDRC has ruled that Qualcomm does hold a monopoly in China, it has yet to decide whether the company has abused its position in the market.
Under China’s 2008 anti-monopoly laws, Qualcomm could face high fines, potentially topping $1bn.
In a statement to Reuters, Qualcomm said that it is seeking an amicable conclusion to the investigation. “Qualcomm executives discussed with NDRC officials several topics in an effort to reach a comprehensive resolution. We are continuing to cooperate with NDRC and cannot comment further,” the firm said.
Given that the NDRC is targeting at least another 30 foreign firms with antitrust investigations, including Microsoft and Volkswagen, critics have suggested that the monopoly law is being used to unfairly target overseas firms so that China can protect its native businesses.
Even if the China case is settled Qualcomm is now facing the prospect of a monopoly probe in Europe. Reuters has also reported the company could face a European Commission antitrust investigation following a complaint made four years ago by British software defined modem company Icera, a subsidiary of Nvidia.
Icera alleged that Qualcomm had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour by discouraging customers from doing businesses with Icera through patent related incentives and exclusionary pricing of chipsets.
While it was thought that the allegations had dropped from the European Commission’s agenda, the issue has resurfaced. It could even be fast-tracked following a similar monopoly case and subsequent fine made against Intel, which cost the company €1.1bn.
As yet, no official investigation has been opened by the European Comission. Qualcomm was contacted for a statement on both antitrust investigations, but the company has not yet responded.
Patents and their subsequent enforcement tend to play a major part in the technology industry as companies vie for market shares or state their supremacy. Qualcomm is no different, with the company having snapped up 2,400 patents from HP, including one for the now-defunct Palm technology, earlier this year.
Security researcher Dan Rosenberg has told a Black Hat conference how it is possible to permanently unlock the bootloader on Android phones – provided they use a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip.
Rosenberg said that the flaw is in ARM’s TrustZone technology, which runs a trusted operating system and another for normal apps. This is supposed to improve device security, but in Qualcomm’s implementation, they cocked it up. It means that if a hacker gets access to the trusted operation part of the chip, it can run whatever application he or she likes.
This affects all known Android devices with a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC, including the Nexus 5, the HTC One, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, as well as the Moto X. The Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 have already been patched.
China’s Lenovo is acquiring patents related to 3G and 4G technologies from U.S.-based Unwired Planet for $100 million, as the company sets about expanding with its proposed Motorola Mobility acquisition.
The 21 patent families that Lenovo is purchasing from Unwired Planet will help the Chinese company grow its smartphone and mobile business in new markets, it said Thursday.
In addition, Unwired Planet is licensing its patent portfolio to Lenovo for an unspecified number of years. The Nevada-based company develops mobile technologies in use by carriers including AT&T and Sprint. After its deal with Lenovo closes, Unwired Planet said it will have about 2,500 issued and pending international patents in its portfolio.
Although Lenovo is best known as a PC maker, the company is aiming to becoming a major vendor of mobile phones. Already, in its home market of China, Lenovo ranks as one of the biggest smartphone vendors, and has dozens of different models on the local market.
Lenovo’s mobile phone business is set to grow even larger. In January, the company announced it planned to buy Motorola Mobility from Google for $2.9 billion.
With the proposed acquisition, Lenovo’s handset business will get a foothold in the North American market. The company plans to keep the Motorola business intact, and even use the business to sell phones in its home market of China.
The Motorola deal will also help Lenovo shield itself from patent-related lawsuits that have been used to try to stymie the businesses of other handset makers. By buying Motorola, Lenovo will take ownership of more than 2,000 patent assets and also gain access to Google’s own patent portfolio.
Lenovo’s deal with Unwired Planet is expected to close in 30 days.
Earlier this year Intel made a lot of noise about leasing its foundries to third parties, but at least one big played does not appear to be interested.
Speaking at a tech conference, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said his company is not interested in using Intel fabs and that it will continue to cooperate with established foundries like TSMC.
Jacobs argued that Intel is great at building huge volumes of equally huge cores, but TSMC is a tad more flexible. He pointed out that foundries like TSMC can run build multiple different products simultaneously, controlling the process using software.
“Intel is famous, has been known for having a copy-exact model, so they need very large volumes of a particular chip to run through that,” Jacobs said, reports ITProPortal.
However, Jacobs did point out that he was glad to hear Intel is joining the foundry space and that it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Qualcomm’s Adreno 330 GPU will be replaced by new Adreno 400-series parts and naturally the new generation will be faster than the one that sits inside the Snapdragon 800.
Our sources are telling us that Adreno 400 is expected with the new version of Snapdragon that is set to debut in early 2014. Traditionally Qualcomm uses CES to showcase its new chips and CES 2014 starts on January 7th, so it sounds like the right time for it.
The only key detail that we learned about Adreno 400 is that despite a significant increase in GPU performance the chip won’t have a compute part and it doesn’t support OpenCL. Many will see this as a handicap, but to be honest we see limited uses for OpenCL in mobile chips, at least for now.
Nvidia’s Logan comes with Open CL 1.1 as well as Open GL 4.4 support. Adreno 330 can push 3.6 Gigapixels a second making it one of the fastest GPUs in mobile market, capable of going head to head with the Tegra 4. Adreno 400 naturally ends up faster.
Then again we expect that Logan Tegra 5 has what it takes to dominate the mobile GPU market in 2014. Let’s not forget about PowerVR 6-series parts, ARM’s recently announced Mali 700-series or Vivante’s upcoming mobile GPU designs, either.
Unlike the AMD-Nvidia duopoly in the PC GPU market, right now there are five players vying for the top spot in the mobile space and things are bound to get interesting.
We could not get the right timeframe for the launch of Qualcomm’s successor to the high-end Snapdragon 800, but there is no doubt that Qualcomm, Samsung, Nvidia and other ARM supporters are thinking about 20nm products where some of them will be based on Cortex A57.
Qualcomm has its own Krait core that can be adapted to 20nm and follow up the success of Snapdragon 600 and the soon to come Snapdragon 800. It turns out that it traditionally takes 18 to 24 months for the mobile industry to shift from one process to another and Qualcomm had its first 28nm part in April 2012, with the Snapdragon S4, used in the HTC One S. The first ever 28nm part from Qualcomm was the Snapdragon S4 MSM8260A that is now more than a year old and a relatively obsolete product.
Less than a year after the first 28nm product Qualcomm followed up with the Snapdragon 600 that is shipping in millions of high end devices right now. In a month or two it plans to release Snapdragon 800 based on new Krait 400 core and add a new core and get even better performance.
The next step is the 20nm core that should start shipping before the end of 1H 2014. We would not be surprised to see 20nm Krait demoed at CES 2014 already in January, see more of it at the Mobile World Congress in February and the volume shipment to follow in early Q2 2014. This is the expected schedule and not something we got from Qualcomm.
The only official world we got is that the new generation traditionally comes 18 to 24 months after the first iteration of a current one. This can give you an idea that Tegra 5, codenamed Logan, should show up at a similar time, along with Samsung’s 20nm Exynos.
It’s no secret that the mobile boom is taking a toll on makers of PC components and AMD is one of them. According to data from IC Insights, Qualcomm and Samsung have managed to pass AMD in microprocessor sales last year.
Intel still dominates the market, with $36.9 billion sales and a 65.3 percent market share. However, Qualcomm has managed to squeeze into second spot, with $5.3 billion in sales and a 9.4 percent share. Samsung ranked third, with $4.66 in sales and an 8.2 percent market share. Qualcomm and Samsung also recorded plenty of growth, 28 and 78 percent respectively.
However, AMD slumped 21 percent to take 6.4 percent of the market, with $3.6 billion in sales. It was still ahead of Freescale and Nvidia, as well as Texas Instruments and ST Ericsson.
It should be noted that about 83 percent of Samsung’s revenue came from chips churned out for Apple. In other words, had Apple built the chips on its own, it would have tied with AMD for the third spot.
ARM and TSMC have manufactured the first Cortex A57 processor based on ARM’s next-gen 64-bit ARMv8 architecture.
The all new chip was fabricated on TSMC’s equally new FinFET 16nm process. The 57 is ARM’s fastest chip to date and it will go after high end tablets, and eventually it will find its place in some PCs and servers as well.
Furthermore the A57 can be coupled with frugal Cortex A53 cores in a big.LITTLE configuration. This should allow it to deliver relatively low power consumption, which is a must for tablets and smartphones. However, bear in mind that A15 cores are only now showing up in consumer products, so it might be a while before we see any devices based on the A57.
In terms of performance, ARM claims the A57 can deliver a “full laptop experience,” even when used in a smartphone connected to a screen, keyboard and mouse wirelessly. It is said to be more power efficient than the A15 and browser performance should be doubled on the A57.
It is still unclear when we’ll get to see the first A57 devices, but it seems highly unlikely that any of them will show up this year. Our best bet is mid-2014, and we are incorrigible optimists. The next big step in ARM evolution will be 20nm A15 cores with next-generation graphics, and they sound pretty exciting as well.
Hewlett-Packard garnered attention at Mobile World Congress show with its new Slate 7-inch tablet and then the sale of webOS assets, but the company is looking to put past distractions behind and will release more tablets in the future, the company said.
“You can expect going forward [to release] a family of products,” said Shane Wall, chief technology officer at Hewlett-Packard’s mobility group, in an interview at MWC. The mobility trade show is being held in Barcelona from Feb. 25 to 28.
The 7-inch tablet attracted a small crowd at the HP booth, with people lining up to photograph or use the device. The company effectively took a dive into the low-cost tablet and tried to differentiate its tablet by a lower price, and also features like a micro-SD card slot for expandable storage and dual-cameras. Google’s $199 Nexus 7 is priced higher and has a quad-core processor, a higher-resolution screen and Android 4.2, but HP believes it will sell a lot of the tablets at the $169 price.
“We’re obviously late,” Wall said. “We wanted to start and see how aggressive we can be on the low end.”
The Slate 7 also signifies HP’s re-entry into the consumer tablet market after a disastrous stint with the webOS mobile operating system, which it got with the acquisition of Palm in 2010 for $1.2 billion. The first webOS tablet, the TouchPad, was launched in 2011, but later discontinued along with webOS smartphones. Since then HP has released enterprise tablets such as ElitePad 900 with Windows 8, and now the company has adopted Android for consumer tablets.
The decision is estimated to displace about 500 jobs in South Korea and follows a decision made a month ago to close down most international Motorola websites and to lay off about 4,000 workers.
Motorola Mobility said in a statement that it began telling staff in South Korea on Monday about “plans to close most of our operations in Korea, including our research and development and consumer mobile device marketing organization.”
The statement said the changes “reflect our plans to consolidate our global R&D efforts to foster collaboration, and to focus more attention on markets where we are best positioned to compete effectively.”