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Daily Authority: ⚖ Qualcomm and Arm face off

Arm's lawsuit against Qualcomm and Disney's Prime-like membership program are highlights today.
By
September 1, 2022
Qualcomm logos at MWC
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

😾 Good morning! Have you ever tried giving eye drops to a cat? We’ve had to start doing this as our feline is recovering from a minor eye ailment. Thank goodness she doesn’t choose violence, but it’s still a two-person job.

Chip giants call to Arms

ARM logo
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

A major news story broke late yesterday when Arm announced that it was suing Qualcomm and its subsidiary Nuvia. This could have long-term repercussions for both the mobile and Arm PC space.

  • Qualcomm is a major chipmaker in the mobile and computing spaces thanks to its Snapdragon family of processors.
  • The company used to rely on custom CPU designs for its flagship smartphone processors but switched to semi-custom CPU tech based on Arm IP in 2017.
  • In other words, it went from designing its own CPU tech to taking Arm’s existing CPU designs and tweaking them.
  • However, Qualcomm officially acquired Nuvia last year as part of a plan to return to using custom CPU technology. 
  • Nuvia was formed by former Apple chip engineers and initially focused on Arm-powered datacenter processors. You can read about them over here.
  • But Qualcomm sees Nuvia as a key tool that will help it beat Apple’s processors in the computer and smartphone spaces.
  • After all, Apple’s processors, particularly in the computer segment, have been miles ahead of Qualcomm’s chips. 
  • And yes, current Qualcomm computer chips are based on Arm CPU technology.

Spanner in the works

Arm’s announcement of a lawsuit might throw a spanner into the Qualcomm/Nuvia works. 

  • Arm said in a statement that Qualcomm and Nuvia breached “certain license agreements” and committed trademark infringement.
  • Arm asserts that the two companies should “destroy certain Nuvia designs” per a contractual agreement.
  • The release alleges Qualcomm tried to transfer Nuvia’s Arm licenses without Arm’s consent.
  • However, Arm also claimed that Nuvia’s licenses for Arm tech expired in March 2022, presumably due to Nuvia’s acquisition.
  • Arm says Qualcomm therefore “breached the terms of the Arm license agreement by continuing development under the terminated licenses.”
  • A source dished out more details to Android Authority, echoing some of Arm’s claims.
  • The source reiterated that Qualcomm would be required to destroy certain Nuvia designs and start over if Arm didn’t give consent for the next phase of development.
  • It seems consent wasn’t forthcoming for this next phase but that the chip designs remained the same.
  • Arm’s Phil Hughes also told Android Authority that Nuvia’s Arm licenses barred the startup from being acquired without Arm’s consent.
  • It’s alleged that Arm’s consent wasn’t sought for Qualcomm to acquire Nuvia.

What next for Qualcomm and Nuvia?

Qualcomm asserted that Arm has no right, “contractual or otherwise,” to interfere with company efforts.

  • “Arm’s complaint ignores the fact that Qualcomm has broad, well-established license rights covering its custom-designed CPUs, and we are confident those rights will be affirmed,” the company added.
  • Qualcomm was planning to start sampling the first PC chips with Nuvia CPUs to OEMs in H2 2022, with device launches slated for 2023.
  • If Arm gets its way and forces Nuvia to destroy some CPU designs, this timeline could be thrown out of the window.
  • Qualcomm would be forced to keep using its current PC chips. This wouldn’t be ideal as these chips have a reputation for being underpowered compared to Apple’s SoCs.
  • We’re also expecting Nuvia CPUs to arrive in smartphones after the first Nuvia laptop chips launch, but this timeline could theoretically be pushed back too.
  • Here’s hoping Arm and Qualcomm reach a resolution that doesn’t involve any major delays, as this could put the Windows-on-Arm and Android ecosystems as a whole on the backfoot compared to Apple.
  • For what it’s worth, Nuvia was previously under fire from Apple after the Cupertino giant filed a lawsuit against it.

Roundup

📱 Sony announces the Xperia 5 IV: A little less phone for a lot less cash (Android Authority).

⚡ Don’t expect a charger with your Oppo phone next year: Oppo is the latest brand to announce plans to ditch bundled chargers, ugh (Android Authority).

🎨 Did you miss yesterday’s Wallpaper Wednesday? It’s the perfect opportunity to spruce up your phone (Android Authority).

🛰 NASA solves mystery glitch on 70s vintage Voyager 1 spacecraft: The pioneering space probe was sending garbled telemetry data back to Earth, but it turns out that it was sending data via the wrong computer. The fix involved telling the probe to send the data back via the correct computer (CNET).

😟 Snapchat has announced that it will lay off 1,200 employees, equivalent to 20% of its workforce: The latest in a string of tech companies laying off workers (BBC).

💻 Lenovo X1 Fold 2022 hands-on: The tech is impressive and Lenovo made plenty of tweaks, but it’s still expensive and might be a niche buy (Android Authority).

The US government has ordered Nvidia to stop selling top AI chips to China: The move could cost Nvidia $400 million (Reuters).

📱 The iPhone 14 Pro will apparently use software to bridge two display cutouts: Rumors earlier this year said the device will have both a punch-hole cutout and a pill-shaped cutout. But it turns out that software could make it look like one continuous cutout (MacRumors).

Thursday Thing

Disney Plus on Chromebook

Amazon has Amazon Prime, but it turns out Disney is considering a similar concept. The Wall Street Journal reports that Disney is exploring its own membership program, citing people familiar with discussions.

  • The program is referred to as Disney Prime internally, although that apparently won’t be the final name.
  • Still, the name does serve perhaps as evidence of the Amazon Prime inspiration.
  • The idea is to offer discounts and perks for streaming, merchandise, theme parks, and resorts.
  • Disney confirmed to WSJ that it was exploring the idea of a membership program, without further details.
  • The company is apparently working to bring merch buying integration to Disney Plus as well.
  • Either way, it seems like membership programs are the next digital frontier. Even Walmart offers Walmart Plus, complete with Paramount Plus streaming.

Have a great day!

Hadlee Simons, Editor.