back to article Funnily enough, when Qualcomm's licensees stop sending in their royalty checks, profits start going south

Qualcomm beat Wall Street's expectations on Wednesday, reporting $5.9bn in revenues for its fiscal Q4, down five per cent year-on-year, and $22.4bn for the full year, also down five per cent. The chip designer's diluted earnings per share came to $0.92 for the quarter, higher than the $0.81 analysts had anticipated, according …

  1. Herby Silver badge

    Could be....

    That Qualcomm is an acquisition target. When Apple gets a chance to repatriate all of its overseas $$$$ it might want to spend it on something worthwhile.

    You never know.

    1. whoseyourdaddy

      Re: Could be....

      Antitrust. Never happen.

      Where do you think 'droids would get their chips from?

    2. Boohoo4u

      Re: Could be....

      No. Apple wants to license their wireless related IP at FRAND (reasonable prices). Q got greedy...

      Apple has no interest in Q’s other business, they already build a superior processor.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Could be....

      They wouldn't need to repatriate any money from overseas, they could use debt (borrow against the overseas cash) or more likely buy it with shares of Apple. It won't happen though, Apple has never done an acquisition even remotely close to the size of Qualcomm, and wouldn't want to buy all its other businesses just to obtain the modem IP.

      Heck, they couldn't even reach a deal with Imagination a couple years ago to buy them for a fraction of the cost for their GPU IP - probably because they'd also inherit contracts to deliver GPUs to customers for years. Imagine all the long term contracts they'd inherit buying Qualcomm, which might be difficult to offload even when they later sold off all the stuff they wouldn't want like the Snapdragon team, the IoT chips, and so forth.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could be....

      Surely it's when they don't pay that the issue rather than when they check what they owe. So cheques not checks are the issue here!

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Could be....

        Now that the iPhone 8 has been released, has there been any word about Imagination Technologies claim that Apple's in-house GPU infringes Imagination's IP?

        I get the impression that Apple wanted a processing unit that does more than displaying pixels - things like AR processing and image processing. (This seems to be a trend, Google, Microsoft and Qualcomm have specialist silicon for tasks beyond the traditional 3D graphics stuff). If so, Apple might not have seen much value in acquiring Imagination Technologies.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Could be....

          Imagination probably will need some time to poke around at the new chip and the Metal 2 API to figure out if it infringes on their patents. They need proof for a court, not the supposition they had before the A11 was even out there.

          It is difficult to enforce GPU patents simply because you don't know how the chip works so you have to infer it from APIs and behavior. Delidding and using an electron microscope to look at the circuitry is possible but fantastically expensive.

  2. DougS Silver badge

    I wonder who the other company withholding payment is?

    It pretty much has to be Samsung - Qualcomm already lost an antitrust action in South Korea so Samsung has solid ground to stand on back home, and they are about the only company other than Apple that really has a need for a sizeable number of Qualcomm chips due to the CDMA requirement for Verizon/Sprint in the US.

  3. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Has anyone else seen Qualcomm advertising?

    For the past several months, here and there around Boston, Massachusetts -- particularly at North Station, an Amtrak/commuter rail/subway nexus -- Qualcomm has been advertising pretty heavily. ("You use us nnn times a day but you don't know our name," and suchlike signs everywhere and wrappers on the subway card-reader gates.) Has anyone else seen these or are they, for some reason I can't fathom, spending a chunk of money running institutional ads in one market?

    I mean, standard business logic would indicate that if you don't sell to the public, you don't waste money advertising to the public. The exception is if you expect your name to show up negatively in the news, in which case, you proactively run institutional ads touting what a swell bunch.of fellows you are. You tend to see a lot of ads from companies like Lockheed and Raytheon shortly before the defense budget comes up before Congress, for example.

    If Qualcomm is spending money on institutional ads, they MUST be expecting some sort of return on the investment, and goodwill -- from SOMEBODY -- would be the usual guess. But if the ads are showing up in one city only -- and in the time frame that the ads have been up in Boston, I've also been in Chicago, Nashville, and New York and don't recall seeing them in those cities -- then I don't see how they can get any significant boost from them.

    So, yeah... If they are advertising, they must, I think, be hoping to counter any negative press from the court cases and reduced revenue numbers. But I should think that that would require running the ads pretty broadly in many large markets and, in my limited experience, I'm not seeing it. Has anyone else seen them, or can anyone come up with a strategy that makes sense, otherwise? 'Cause I got nothin'.

    1. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: Has anyone else seen Qualcomm advertising?

      I mean, standard business logic would indicate that if you don't sell to the public, you don't waste money advertising to the public.

      I don't know - it worked pretty well for Intel. It's a great idea advertising to the public if you think you can get people wanting devices with your stuff in them - and can get them to distrust things with doodads in them from someone you've never heard of. Even if the general public have no idea what the stuff or doodads actually are...

      1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone else seen Qualcomm advertising?

        Another possibility is just insanity. Execs, especially the ones just below the top, the ones pining for the big chairs and corner offices, are not known for their rationality. Combine this with marketing folks, who are often a bit loopy themselves, but know how to please those higher up on the food chain, and you have a fairly useless advertising campaign whose original purpose is lost in the noise.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone else seen Qualcomm advertising?

        "Even if the general public have no idea what the stuff or doodads actually are..."

        eg Centrino.

      3. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone else seen Qualcomm advertising?

        Sure; but Intel ran those ads EVERYWHERE. They were on TV, in magazines and newspapers, even on shopping bags at techy stores, IIRC... You couldn't turn around without seeing a half-dozen "Intel Inside" ads. So far, though, I've only seen or heard of the Qualcomm ads in one market. Now, granted, with MIT and more than a fair number of government brain-boxes and tech startups, Boston may be a disproportionately influential tech city for its size, but it's not New York and it's not San Francisco and it's not any one of a number of other, more important tech and finance hubs. So why the (apparent) big push here and nowhere else?

  4. LeoP

    Ah, the precious IP

    So, just that I get that straight: The company, that wanted and got billions for the "IP" in the "invention" of a square with rounded corners now doesn't want to pay a third of this for tech that actually has R&D behind it, does something usefull and is incorporated into a tangible chip.

    It's definitly Apple, that gets ripped off here. Sure.

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: Ah, the precious IP

      You need to learn the difference between a normal and a design patent. Then you need to learn about the meaning of the acronym FRAND.

      Like Coca-Cola, who have a design patent on the shape of their bottle, Apple didn’t want other companies producing phones that looked too close to theirs (just like Coca-Cola don’t want other companies selling cola in bottles that can be mistaken for Coke). It’s not a wildly unreasonable position, and it didn’t stop anyone else making smart phones.

      FRAND is a legal commitment made by companies who contribute their IP to a standard like LTE. It means that they promise to licence their tech to anyone on a Fair, Reasonable And Non-Descriminatory basis. Anyone should be able to use it at fixed and published rates. Qualcomm did this for LTE. Apple have rather a lot of their IP in FRAND patent pools (like LTE and h264 as for-instances), so it’s not something they don’t know anything about or have no involvement with. Qualcomm have been found guilty of breaching FRAND rules in more than one jurisdiction, and stand accused in many others.

    2. PM.

      Re: Ah, the precious IP

      They are both thugs. Make no mistake ...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You have to laugh......

    .....Apple complaining about being charged too much for a product.

    Hypocrisy much?

  6. Sykowasp

    They'll probably use the massive drop in profits as evidence that the fees they are asking for are fair.

    And it seems that Qualcomm likes to stiff all of its clients over, so that's fairly non-discriminatory! Not very reasonable maybe...

    I'm not losing tears over two massive bully companies having a tiff. I feel for the people involved, patent/license cases are not the most exciting.

  7. Oldfogey


    What puzzles me is who uses modems nowadays? Are they the sort where you push rubber cups over the phone's mouth and earpieces?

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Modems?

      "What puzzles me is who uses modems nowadays?"

      Anyone with a cable or adsl Internet connection? Or a mobile phone?

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