Well, this was coming sooner or later. Before Microsoft and Qualcomm’s love can lead to a happy marriage, both companies have received a warning from Intel.  In a detailed blog post that celebrates 40 successful years of company’s x86 ISA, the company has warned that any attempts to emulate x86 may face the fate of Transmeta, another company which had to shut shop after trying to emulate x86 ISA 10 years ago.

The otherwise-cheerful post titled “X86: Approaching 40 and Still Going Strong” gets a little serious towards the end and says:

“There have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel’s proprietary x86 ISA without Intel’s authorization. Emulation is not a new technology, and Transmeta was notably the last company to claim to have produced a compatible x86 processor using emulation (‘code morphing’) techniques. Intel enforced patents relating to SIMD instruction set enhancements against Transmeta’s x86 implementation even though it used emulation. In any event, Transmeta was not commercially successful, and it exited the microprocessor business 10 years ago.

Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel’s x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition, and we are confident that Intel’s microprocessors, which have been specifically optimized to implement Intel’s x86 ISA for almost four decades, will deliver amazing experiences, consistency across applications, and a full breadth of consumer offerings, full manageability and IT integration for the enterprise. However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel’s intellectual property rights. Strong intellectual property protections make it possible for Intel to continue to invest the enormous resources required to advance Intel’s dynamic x86 ISA, and Intel will maintain its vigilance to protect its innovations and investments.”

In case you don’t know, last year in December Microsoft had urged its partner PC makers to make some ARM based Windows 10 laptops by utilizing emulation technology. The PCs thus created would’ve Snapdragon 820/835/845 or any other powerful mobile processor underneath but will still be capable of running the desktop-grade Windows programs because they would come with a special version of Windows 10 capable of emulating x86 ISA.

However, now after Intel’s warning that x86 is its proprietary technology it’ll be interesting to see what Microsoft does. Because a fight with Intel, the dominant player of PC processor market, can lead to some nasty consequences no matter who wins in the end.


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