back to article Qualcomm vs Arm: The bizarro quotient just went off the scale

The stupid is strong right now. In politics, economics and climate, crass madness is the order of the day. Commerce has its own flagships of farce, the Ford Edsels and New Cokes of companies being their own worst enemies. That list of legendary loserdom may soon have a new name for the ages, if what Qualcomm claims for Arm's …

  1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Tactics

    "You want a particular CPU? Terribly sorry, but there's a really long lead time on that part – unless you also buy the rest of our support chips... then we can do business. It's unethical, usually illegal, and even the biggest names look the other way when their sales teams do it."

    Also used by distributers who only have bundles in stock and not the individual device you want. - Different wording, same game.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Tactics

      But more importantly, that tactic wouldn't work for ARM because all they sell is the rights to copy a circuit diagram and sell those copies to people.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Tactics

        If the contract says you can't sell chips containing ARM's "circuit diagram" with a GPU unless it is GPU also licensed from ARM, then that tactic would work. It may not be legal, but when has that ever stopped e.g. Intel, Microsoft or IBM when they've had similar contracts so why would it stop ARM?

        In fact, the "charge the end OEM a cut of the device's price" tactic Qualcomm claims ARM is planning to move to is a page from Qualcomm's playbook (remember those Apple lawsuits from a few years back?) so maybe Qualcomm should add a claim to their suit for plagiarism of business model.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Tactics

          Sure, but that is different from not having any in stock.

          For example Intel could hypothetically have stock shortages that mostly impact computer manufacturers that ship AMD and Nvidia parts in some of their computers, but plentiful stock for suppliers that are all-Intel. ARM couldn't play that particular game.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Tactics

            Something that Intel was convicted of doing multiple times.

            If Dell wanted to sell cheap AMD laptops it didn't get Xeons for its servers

      2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Tactics

        You can't copyright a circuit. It's like trying to copyright a mathematical equation.

        You can however copyright an exact representation of a circuit as if it was a painting. Technically it would be possible to rearrange the same circuit to look different but have the exact same functionality.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Tactics

          It is a *very* large circuit diagram. If you were to put it on a regular circuit board with a feature size of maybe 5mm rather than a silicon wafer with a feature size of 5nm, then you are looking at something in the order of 50km x 50km.

          That, I think makes a difference to whether you can copyright it. The difference between copyrighting an individual word and copyrighting an entire book.

  2. bofh1961

    Softbank still owns Arm...

    ...and is known to be wanting to squeeze as much out of the company as possible without having any real understanding of the industry or Arm's place in it. While Arm's management almost certainly wouldn't want to go down this alleged route, Softbank might think it a very good idea.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Softbank still owns Arm...

      But let's not forget - Qualcomm is a really, really nasty company that's not above using threats and bribery to enforce the very behaviour that they accuse ARM of..

      If Qualcomm were to tell me that the sky is blue, I'd want to take a good look outside before taking their word for it.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Softbank still owns Arm...

        Yes, calumny at play here I think.

        I feel it is more likely that ARM will have to stop making money from licensing the ISA and give it way. Then call back on providing off the shelf designs and support.

  3. pimppetgaeghsr

    Softbank loves losing money gambling it away but with ARM they seem adamant that they must steer this one off a cliff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It does seem that Qualcomm knows something about Softbank's plans with ARM. If the fee per device was small enough, I feel as if ARM could get away with it in vivid color. Which manufacturer is going to switch because they have to pay $20 more per $1000+ device? Hell, even a Raspberry Pi costs $200 dollars, what's another $20? I mean haven't you heard... it's inflation baby.

      The author using Qualcomm == SCO as an imaging comparison is ridiculous. A. Qualcomm is not going all-in on 1 lawsuit to secure their future. B. They're not claiming to have something they don't. C. They're not bribing current ARM customers. D. They're not playing proxy for a larger competitor of ARM. Daryl and the SCO guild should of went to prison for life. Qualcomm is either talking through their hat or stupidly running their mouth over some internal ARM memo they've only seen parts of. But, I don't see Qualcomm flat out lying and I don't see ARM flat out denying anything... the truth is in the middle (somewhere).

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        should of?

        Should of? It's bloody should have.

        1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

          Re: should of?

          Shhhhh. Don't ruin the fantasy we're all having about Daryl's black-blanket welcome with your grammatical correctness. Maybe later, OK? Right now, we're all thinking "Yeahhhh, give it to him good."

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        @badflorist

        You're buying your Rasperry Pi's from the wrong source! You're being scalped!

        The list price of a Pi 4 (2GB) is listed as from $35 according to raspberrypi.com, although they are on back order!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really?

    What surprises me in all of this is why anyone believes a single word that comes out of a Qualcomm mouthpiece?

    They are not exactly known for their impartial and honest commentary of the world around them.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      "if Qualcomm's claims are correct"

      Take those claims with a shitload of salt

  5. 3arn0wl

    Thank you @Rupert

    I made these points - albeit rather less articulately - last week, and came up against a fair amount of resistance.

    The thing about law suits is that things that both parties would rather stay confidential, will be aired for all to see. And the probability is that both parties will be smeared during this process. In fact, the more desperate things become : the more damage will be done.

    I'm sorry, but I can't help but see this whole misadventure as a PR disaster of their own making from Arm, at a time when they are looking to get the company in good shape to float it.

    1. Aitor 1

      Re: Thank you @Rupert

      ARM has refused to say these claims are false, just that the are, err not precise.

      So I do believe that Qualcomm is either exaggerating or ARM was strong arming Qualcomm. Couldn't happen to a nicer company, but the fact that did not say no to the per device, etc, is telling.

  6. heyrick Silver badge

    First of all, one could argue that Qualcomm is hardly impartial here and could be seen as being actively hostile. These sorts of allegations could raise question marks in some people's heads about the viability of ARM.

    Alternatively, wouldn't it be a brilliant plan to leak these ideas to the outfit you're in a legal spat with knowing they'll make it public. Then it's possible to see the reactions to the idea without ever having made any official statement and, indeed, with plausible deniability by simply calling bullshit on what Qualcomm has been saying.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. 3arn0wl

      Conspiracy theory : An Arm leak to test the waters?

      hmm - a not so brilliant plan

      You think that Arm doesn't already know that the industry wouldn't like the idea of being restricted to only what Arm itself has to offer? However good the stuff Arm produced was, no-one likes a monopoly, and the industry has benefited from the freedom to mix and match chips to get the most performant combination possible.

      Meanwhile Qualcomm has sown the seeds of doubt about Arm's future plans, and even about their integrity. For an industry that needs to plan ahead quite a bit : uncertainty is unwelcome.

      I assume that there has to be at least a grain of truth to what Qualcomm are alleging, even if it is a gross contortion of facts. And I presume that they will be required to produce evidence of their claims in due course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Conspiracy theory : An Arm leak to test the waters?

        Could ARM have threatened to apply those terms to Qualcomm only? It might, or might not, be illegal to actually discriminate like that, but it would be a different thing than applying it to the whole market.

        1. 3arn0wl

          Re: Conspiracy theory : An Arm leak to test the waters?

          As I understand it, Qualcomm are alleging that from 2025 OEMs will be required to do their business with Arm, and not with a developer of Arm-designs.

          I don't know whether that refers to Qualcomm alone - Qualcomm said that Arm has wrongly asserted that Qualcomm's Arm licenses would be invalid from 2025 - or whether it refers to all Arm-design companies.

          Nor do I know whether it refers to all OEMs, or just the ones Qualcomm has said it has seen evidence from.

        2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Conspiracy theory : An Arm leak to test the waters?

          Quite possibly, since Qualcomm have decided to disregard the contract terms.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let the market decide

    Isn't that the capitalist approach?

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Let the market decide

      That's a very naive notion, if you don't mind me saying so.

      Capitalism 101 always talks about "the invisible hand of the market" steering production towards the best and most efficient goods and services. The idea was wishful thinking even in Adam Smith's day and its not any better now.

      The fundamental problem is that capitalism is about making money by whatever route works. If you have to go to all that trouble making widgets then so be it but if you can make as much or more licensing others' widgets so much the better. This inevitably causes market consolidation -- competition is inefficient & wasteful -- with the concentration of wealth and power in a relatively few hands who then seek to use this power to get the best 'yield' from their investments. So ARM's move might be anathema to us engineering types who know the why's and wherefore's of how ARM came to be what it is today but its entirely logical from a corporate standpoint. Its how business works -- its not about competition, its about "Yield management".

      What might ultimately be ARM's downfall is that the processor is really just a generic RISC, albeit a highly developed one. It is popular due to the build/buy tradeoff, not because its particularly special. It could very easily be replaced, especially in the mass market, lower performance, applications. Corporate types won't understand this, they'll see competitors and they'll try legal or legislative approaches to trying to choke off the competition because that's what they know -- what they can't acquire they'll sue or sanction. Its really putting off the inevitable.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Let the market decide

        That's correct. Capitalism works on a micro level, but on a macro level it has plenty of edge cases that big corporations can exploit to the point at micro level it feels the whole system is rigged.

        Probably the simplest way to fix this would be to never let corporation get to a macro level scale. For instance, in case of Google - it could be mandatory, once the revenue hits a certain threshold, to have company split into independent corporations - until individual revenue is below threshold.

        Another way could be progressive tax on revenue. 0% below £100m, 5% over £100m, 50% over £500m, 99% over £1b.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " Or is this lawsuit an attempt by Qualcomm to try to scare the market and put pressure on Arm into promises of good behavior?"

    It is. Qualcomm, as a corporation, is literal piece of shit that lies about *everything, every time*. So that is the only option.

    Also, on top of that, it's ligitative bastard trying to steal as large slice of the cake as they can, even from so-called partners: Anyone turning their back to Q will be backstabbed in a nanosecond.

  9. GrendelsOtherArm

    Not actually staggering

    "Is it possible that Arm could be this stupid? It is possible, but it's staggeringly unlikely."

    Have you spent much time around Rene?

  10. Dasreg

    There is a contract bet Nuvia and arm isn't there?

  11. john.w

    Qualcomm lead the way.

    It is amusing that it is Qualcomm, the epitome of the 'our way or the highway' approach to chip sets and IP, that is the supposed victim here.

  12. 3arn0wl

    Qualcomm vs Arm court dates announced

    Discovery is set to start on January 13th, 2023, and the trial on September 23rd, 2024.

    https://www.rcrwireless.com/20221222/analyst-angle/qualcomm-vs-arm-court-dates-announced-who-has-the-luxury-of-time-will-win#

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