|Intel and AMD fail to resolve x86 cross-license dispute|
Business and Law
By Rick C. Hodgin
Wednesday, April 01, 2009 09:39
Annapolis (MD) - Negotiations between AMD and Intel over a 2001 x86 cross-license agreement broke down completely yesterday. The dispute over the recent division of AMD into a fabless semiconductor company and GlobalFoundries, resulted in both companies failing to reach an agreement over licensing terms. As a result, all development and use of x86 extensions held as intellectual property by the other company since the former agreement in 1993 must cease. This unprecedented separation of an entrenched technology base (x86 CPUs) has forced the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, as it did in the 2000 presidential election.
According to unnamed sources present in the meeting, Intel and AMD were unable to resolve the 2001 x86 cross-license dispute in mediation which, under the contract's terms, must be completed in one 24-hour face-to-face meeting within 30 days of the initial filing. Both Intel and AMD produced evidence which they believed to be irrefutable, resulting in a full consumption of the allotted 24-hour time period in debate. Said Intel's Chuck Mulloy as their team exited the negotiating room, "We're not exactly sure how it happened. Having flown here [to Delaware] from California, our watches showed we had three hours left to negotiate."
As the two rivals were unable to come to an agreement, the contract provisions mandate that both parties fall back to the previous 1993 x86 cross-license agreement, which will significantly impact the x86 industry by removing such modern technologies as out-of-order execution, the integrated FPU, 64-bit extensions, virtualization and MIMD technologies like MMX/SSE, etc.
One analyst noted there are also internal issues relating to the code execution which will now hamper both company's CPU performance. Intel must revert to an off-die memory controller, which will significantly impact its ability to scale in multi-socket server environments. And AMD must stop using the exclusionary cache architecture, which was originally developed by Intel but later abandoned in favor of an inclusionary model, resulting in up to a 60% decrease in performance for AMD.
Following the news yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court's legal office issued a statement that a failure in negotiations at this level is unacceptable due to the entrenched nature of x86 technology, and the world's reliance on its success. As a result, both companies have been called to a meeting before the justices, to be held at 3pm today [Eastern time, guys. -Editor], to resolve the dispute. Said Chief Justice Roberts, "We can't have the central core of our technology sectors failing to reach agreements like this in good faith. When this meeting is over today, the 2001 cross-license dispute will be resolved, or there will be a single new company called either IMD or Amtel."