qualcomm

Remember what Malatesta told you during last week's podcast? He told you that Qualcomm has been having a rough time here in the US lately. Add another data point to that trend as it turns out that their excellent chipset that's running the updated HTC Advantage 7510 isn't allowed for sale in the US. We're relatively sure this is part of their ongoing struggles with Broadcom, but don't hold us to that as we're neither lawyers nor do we aspire to be.

It's a real pity, too, because although we do think that that the Advantage has one of the weirdest niches in in the Windows Mobile world -- somewhere between a subnotebook and a proper smartphone -- the thought just occurred to us that this thing would be stupendous as a dashboard computer for our automobiles. Goodbye silly car stereo, hello über-connected mp3-gps-internet radio-WiFi WiFi bridge wundermachine. Ford Sync's got nuthin on this.

jkOnTheRun [via BGR]

Update: The real tragedy here? Matt Miller tells us the Advantage 7510 comes pre-loaded with Opera Mobile 9.5 as the default browser. I'm thinking we breaking out the pitchforks and torches and head over to the patent office. Who's with me?!

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Amongst the many sagas we keep track of here at WMExperts, few are as contentious and difficult to follow as the HTC Video Driver issue. It's been awhile since we covered this, so before we get to the latest piece of news in the now-month-long delay in a promised software fix, we feel like we ought to present the history of this torrid affair.

Read on for the skinny!

History

Several HTC devices (most notable the AT&T Tilt / TYTN II) have a significant delay in both rotating the screen and in video playback. Some hardy investigators determined that the Qualcomm chip inside these devices has on-board hardware acceleration for video, but the devices did not have the necessary drivers to take advantage of it. HTC's initial response was, many thought,

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HTC To Deliver Video Improvements After All?

You know about the so-called “missing driver” controversy on HTC devices utilizing Qualcomm chips, you've read our exclusive Insider Q&A and learned that the situation is not as clear as you might have thought, and now you're a regular visitor to http://HTCClassAction.org, whose updates page tells us this:

A response from Peter Chou himself (CEO of HTC) has surfaced saying they hope to release a driver at the end of March. [...] According to Fudzilla, Dr. Florian Seiche, vice president of HTC Europe, stated “Video acceleration drivers for HTC devices will see the light of the day”

...Then you dared to dream, just a little bit, that HTC's official “sorry folks” response might have just been a smoke screen, a white lie to buy some time for HTC to deliver unto us video drivers that would turn our devices into God Machines, tiny extensions of SkyNet in the palms of our hands, displaying Omnimax quality at 240x320.

If so, then we have three things to say to you. 1. Time to start taking your meds again. 2. Yes, it's true, a fix might be coming, but 3. According to Engadget Mobile, it's not technically going to be a video driver. Instead, look forward to enhancements to the already existing software stacks that should hopefully speeds things up a bit.

That's really not too surprising given the fractious issues brought up in the Q&A: Video drivers are difficult to develop and just as difficult to implement -- if HTC can get us a quick fix and then move on to doing the next device right, that might have to be good enough. Better that than spend 6 months spending too many resources on current generation tech.

Or are we going too easy on HTC? What say you?

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Motorola Ditches Qualcomm, Cuts R&D

It looks like Motorola is joining the crowd - the crowd (including Verizon) that's running away from Qualcomm like Howard Hughes at a leper colony.

Moto is switching to Texas Instruments for their cell radios, primarily because of "business reasons." I'd bet dollars to donuts that one of those "business reasons" is that Qualcomm is looking like they're never going to get out of this patent fight hole they've dug themselves into.

We believe Motorola's decision was purely business as our technical contacts had suggested many Qualcomm-based [third-generation] WCDMA designs in the pipeline and a general preference amongst Motorola designers for Qualcomm, despite the higher pricing. Our checks reveal that Motorola found Qualcomm "hard to do business with," which we interpret as either too high-priced, or also having something to do with the royalty rates.

Read: Barron's via phone scoop

In other Motorola news, mocoNews is reporting that Moto is cutting their R&D budget by 15% to help with profitability. I like profit as much as the next guy, but given the reception Motorola technology has been getting lately, cutting R&D sounds a bit penny wise and pound stupid.

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LG to make Windows Mobile Smartphones?

We've been awfully hard on Broadcom here at WMExperts, mainly because we (ok, me, for various reasons) have an inherent bias against patents getting in the way of companies releasing new shiny gadgets. It may be time to leaven that harshness, however, as it appears that Broadcom is going to be a new dealer provider of 3G chips for future Windows Mobile smartphones:

A recent sign of Broadcom's newfound footing in basebands came May 31, when Broadcom said it and Microsoft (MSFT), the world's largest software company, had jointly created a design center in Taiwan where the companies will develop basebands that run Microsoft's Windows Mobile software.

So instead of preventing Sprint and Verizon from getting 3G phones, Broadcom's patent will enable the CDMA-duo to get them - with Broadcom's chips. So the system is working. Now the interesting part, who exactly is interested in using these Broadcom chips to make Windows Mobile phones? Apparently it's LG(!):

"Several [manufacturers] have been pushing Broadcom and Microsoft to build this development center," says John Starkweather, general manager of mobile communications at Microsoft. He adds that, later this year, a major manufacturer will release a Windows Mobile device based on a Broadcom baseband chip. Neither company would identify the handset maker or say how much they're spending on the design center. But Starkweather says Korea's LG Electronics asked Broadcom and Microsoft to work together and that Microsoft is spending as much on the center with Broadcom as it has on comparable efforts with TI and Qualcomm.

Read: Broadcom Reaps Patent Suit Benefits

If LG can bring hotness like their Prada phone with Windows Mobile on board, I can break out my credit card -- despite my claims to be more practical about my smartphone purchasing.

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Rant: gpsOne is Not GPS

Pardon my rant:

I joined in the crowd talking about the FCC approval of the ho-hum HTC Iris because it's out there in the blogosphere and we here at WMExperts are super hip with the blogosphere, natch. However, I'm seeing it reported that the Iris has GPS. It does not. It has gpsOne. People: don't say a gadget (especially a rumored gadget that people might save up their pennies to buy) has GPS when it only has gpsOne.

What's the difference and what's my beef? Read on after the break.

What's gpsOne? Here's what Qualcomm says; here's Wikipedia:

gpsOne is primarily used today for Enhanced-911 E911 service, allowing your cell phone to relay your location to emergency dispatchers, one of the traditional shortcomings of cellular phone technology. Using a combination of GPS satellite signals and the cell towers themselves, gpsOne allows your location to be plotted with greater accuracy than traditional GPS systems in areas where satellite reception is problematic due to buildings or terrain.

Read: GpsOne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Basically here's the difference: GPS provides very accurate location information that you can use in various applications like Windows Live Search, TomTom, or Google Maps. GpsOne is locked down 95 times out of 100 so all it does is tell 911 dispatchers your approximate. In fact, many folks who have tried to unlock gpsOne capabilities have found it to be inaccurate and have even ended up making their phones dial 911 by mistake.

The situation is even worse on Windows Mobile, actually, because many WM devices could use those chips if there were an API and carriers allowed developers easy access to the gpsOne chip. If you've been holding your breath for carriers to do something nice for you, stop: they're never going to. It's especially aggravating because, as Sbono13 notes, gpsOne actually can work on certain plain-jane featurephone in conjunction with Google Maps. When will we see GpsOne available for apps on a Windows Mobile device? I'm going to guess never. It's sad, but not too sad, because at the end of the day gpsOne isn't as accurate at true-blue GPS anyway.

Look, I want GPS native on my Windows Mobile devices as much as, if not more than, the next guy. Witness my slathering over the upcoming AT&T Tilt. But until carriers allow that gpsOne data to be used openly (read: never), quit thinking the "gpsOne" tickmark on spec sheets means that GPS is built-in. You're just sowing confusion amongst users and raising everybody's hopes.

Meanwhile, pick yourself up a Bluetooth GPS Receiver instead. Me, I'm going to go take my blood pressure medication.

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Qualcomm on the Patent Ropes

On a slow news day, you can always count on lawyers to give you something to talk about. Today's news: Qualcomm just got knocked to the mat in their patent fight with Broadcom. How's that? Well on top of the President refusing to veto the ban on their 3G chips, a judge has now just doubled the fines they'll have to pay for their infringements up to this point, to the tune of nearly $40 million. Quallcomm's response: can their lead attorney:

In a move following a string of legal defeats to Broadcom Corp., a rival and a newcomer to the cell phone business, Qualcomm Inc. announced yesterday that its lead counsel, Lou Loupin, will be resigning.

Read: Qualcomm's Top Attorney Resigns

Oops. Now, maybe Qualcomm was hoping that the masses would rise up in their defense. They shouldn't, though, because moves like this definitely don't garner you good will:

Qualcomm kept its patents on H.264 a secret until the video standard had been adopted by the industry, and then sued users for breaching those patents, a San Diego federal court has ruled.

Qualcomm was an active member of the Joint Video Team (JVT) which defined the H.264 video standard, now used extensively in mobile phone video applications. But while doing so it failed to mention owning at least two patents which anyone implementing the standard would need to license.

Once Broadcom had started development of chips using the standard Qualcomm, "without any prior letter, email, telephone call, or even a smoke signal, let alone attempt to license Broadcom, Qualcomm filed the instant lawsuit against Broadcom for infringement of the '104 and '767 patents", the court said.

Read: Qualcomm: And THIS is why we need open standards ...

Smells a little like Qualcomm trying to play a tit-for-tat legal game and botching it, don't it?

So what will Qualcomm do now? Well, they apologized for the H.264 debacle (nice) and according to RCR Wireless (Reg Required, sorry), they're looking for a workaround:

Qualcomm re-emphasized its commitment to providing its customers with new software, i.e., a "workaround," that could pass muster with officials enforcing the ITC ban.

Good luck with that. In other news, weren't we supposed to see Verizon's UTStarcom XV6800 drop today? My laws, I hope its non-appearance is just a coincidence/falsified rumor. Actually, I know it is, since Verizon smartly got itself out of this Qualcomm quagmire on its own. Broadcom execs want you to know they've put the same offer on the table for everybody else. My advice, take it, you can trust current Broadcom execs, it's just the old ones you can't trust.

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Ah, Lawyers. At once both the cause of and the solution to all of life's problems (or maybe that was beer). Verizon apparently got fed up waiting for the President of the United States to help them and decided to help themselves. The problem was that Qualcomm 3G chips infringed on a Broadcom patent, so the International Trade Commission put the kybosh on any imports of new devices with the chips. Not good.

Instead, Verizon is just going to give Broadcom their blood money license fee - to the tune of 6 bucks for every handset, with some caps. Qualcomm is probably crying on the lawyers and in their beer, because it means that in order for any carrier to buy their chips, one of two things needs to happen now:

  • They need to pursue the lawsuit against Broadcom's patent on their own and win
  • Any carrier that wants to use their chips has to pay an extra fee to Broadcom.

Or, of course, those carriers could just go to some other chipmaker. Gee, what other chipmaker besides Qualcomm have I mentioned in this story?

Under a licensing agreement, Verizon will pay Broadcom $6 for every handset, PDA, or data card that uses EvDO (Evolution-Data Optimized) mobile broadband technology. The carrier will make the payments up to a ceiling of $40 million per calendar quarter and a lifetime maximum of $200 million. As part of the deal, Verizon also will drop an effort to overturn the ruling. Other terms are confidential, according to a statement released by the two companies.

Read: Verizon-Broadcom deal via jkOnTheRun

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Qualcomm Chip Ban Continues

We just reported that Verizon got fed up with the Qualcomm chip ban and just settled with patent-owner Broadcom directly.

(I guess Verizon figured that they could trust Broadcom since Broadcom had the sense to get rid of co-founder Henry T. Nicholas a few years ago - who has been implicated not only in some stock option tomfoolery but also stands accused of building a secret lair for sex and drugs(!) under his estate. Yes, that's only tangentially related to the story here, but some things are just to juicy not to link. Thanks to Joe for the scandalous tip!)

Anyhow, seems like Verizon made the right decision, as things aren't going so well for Qualcomm:

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dismissed Qualcomm's request for a stay of the ban, saying that it can't consider a stay until a presidential review period is over. U.S. President George Bush has 60 days following the U.S. International Trade Commission's decision from June 7 to overturn the ban.

Read: PC World - Qualcomm Chip Ban Upheld via engadget mobile

So it's looking like it really is going to take presidential intervention to keep Qualcomm's chips flowing into the US. Somebody throw Qualcomm a bone - they're having a rough time of it lately.

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CTIA: Don't Ban 3G Chips

Just over a month ago we reported that the International Trade Commission wants to ban 3G chips from being imported into the US because they violated Broadcom patents (Story here). I know a guy who works for Broadcom, and he seems nice enough, but I'm starting to feel like maybe I should punch him in the neck (plus, they're in cahoots with that other popular phone).

In any case, CTIA (they of the superfun wireless conventions) is asking the President to veto the ban because, if it's allowed to stand, they think it will cause $21.1 billion (with a "B") in economic damage. This PDF link provides all the details about how the sky will fall if this isn't stopped. The Spice 3G Must Flow. You go get 'em, CTIA!

CTIA-The Wireless Association® is deeply concerned that the ITC order banning new models of wireless broadband handsets will cause unprecedented economic harm to tens of millions of American wireless consumers, and because of that we urge President Bush to veto the order

Read: MobileCrunch » CTIA Calls for Veto of ITC Chip Ban

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Ok, ok, breathe. It's not as bad as all that.... right? Here's the skinny: the International Trade Commission ruled that Qualcomm's 3G chips (which are to be found a a bunch of phones, especially on Sprint and Verizon) infringe on some Broadcom patents. They banned future imports to the US - but phones that have already been imported or approved are fine. That should mean that roapmaps for upcoming devices shouldn't change in the short term. In the long term, Qualcomm needs to get this little dispute taken care of.

The International Trade Commission said late on Thursday that the Qualcomm chips infringed a patent owned by Broadcom Corp. (BRCM.O: Quote, Profile , Research) and barred U.S. sales of phones containing the chips that are not already being imported.

Read: Qualcomm shares up as ITC ban not as bad as feared

Here's a funny twist, though, the best hope that Qualcomm (and their buddy Verizon) have for fixing this this ASAP? The President of the United States:

Both Qualcomm and Verizon already have said publicly that they plan to ask President Bush to overturn the ITC ruling, and will ask a federal appeals court to grant an emergency stay to prevent the ruling from taking effect until the President rules on the appeal.

Read: 3G Chips Barred from U.S.

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