Chinese Carryout

So, the U.S. government has blocked the sale of Qualcomm, a U.S. chipmaker and innovator, to Singapore-based Broadcom, citing national security reasons.

This is probably a good idea, if not for the reasons given.
Broadcom is in the middle of moving its headquarters back to San Jose anyway, as announced, with great fanfare, by the White House last November as part of the sales promotion of the new tax laws. This seems to have been forgotten lately in the rush to characterize Broadcom as an evil Chinese stealer of U.S. technology (which isn’t necessarily wrong, by the way).

It has its operating headquarters in San Jose anyway, but had legally incorporated in Singapore — which is not part of China — in its chase of tax breaks some years back. So coming back to the U.S. is just keeping with its style of chasing breaks wherever it finds them.
This is definitely in keeping with Broadcom’s management style. It is known in the industry as a “chop shop,” a corporation that buys companies, then dismantles them in search of short-term profits. One writer in PC Magazine characterized them as a “technology Dollar Tree,” and worried what the potential merger would do to Qualcomm’s pursuit of 6G (yes, they’re working on that) technology.
So if the merger was to be blocked using the national security argument, it had to be done soon, before the official move.

 

Another Philosophy

Qualcomm, on the other hand, is known as a long-term player, a company that takes risks on projects with possible great future value, but no guarantees of success. It is led by a former MIT computer science professor and has pioneered many of the technologies used in everyone’s smartphones, including a method of sharing airwaves by multiple smartphones simultaneously that is used by Verizon, Sprint and many international firms.

As a result, its chips are used in many current phones, including Apple, Samsung and Google models.

It makes money by selling chips that it designs, but are actually manufactured by others, sort of like Apple with its phones. These chips include CPU and really, really fast modem chips, the next generation of which will allow virtual reality streaming to your phone. But the vast amount of its profits are garnered from licensing its patents, of which it has thousands. Its pricing model on this is unique as well, since it charges phone manufacturers not on the price of the chips, but as a percentage of the entire phone.

This has led to a slight tiff with Apple — if you think a slight tiff involves lawsuits, countersuits, withholding of royalties and occasional court requests to halt sales of Apple phones in the U.S.
Apple, which started using Intel chips in half of its iPhones two years ago, is presently designing new phones using only Intel modem chips. This, despite tests that show they are slower, leading Apple to throttle the speed of phones using Qualcomm chips so the Intel phones wouldn’t be less desirable.

News of the Apple decision sent Qualcomm stock down, something that Apple will no doubt use in its negotiations with Qualcomm in that slight tiff mentioned above. But by choosing Intel chips that are a generation behind Qualcomm, Apple is sacrificing speed, which everybody wants. It probably will settle out sometime soon (or not), depending on the number of lawyers involved.

Beep, Beep

What can you see in the Arizona desert, in addition to a road runner, a coyote and a bunch of packages from Acme Corp.?

How about automated Volvo big rigs being run by Uber? Human drivers take the trucks across the Arizona border before the autonomous driving takes over (with a token human in the driver’s seat, at least for now) for the long haul portion. A conventional driver takes over for the final portion of the trip. This has been taking place since November. The human driver, who drops the load in Arizona, then takes another load back. When it works, it reduces driver time and warehousing costs, too.

Uber is not alone. Waymo (formerly part of Google) has been working on self-driving trucks for a decade and just recently settled a lawsuit against Uber about theft of its technology. Tesla is also working on self-driving trucks. But is Acme?

You Can Stop Now

While searching for a phone app to chart my walking, I came across MapMyWalk by Under Armour, which then asked me if I wanted to connect to my Smart Shoes.
Smart shoes?
Give me a break. Although I guess they would be better than Smartass Shoes, which would periodically text you with “You’ve been on your butt for hours. Get up.” or “You call that a walk?”

Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing, which does PC troubleshooting, network setups and data retrieval for small businesses, when not recalling Maxwell Smart and his shoe phone. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at cliff@feldwick.com. Older articles are available at http://feldwick.com.