Comms chips

Blood Feud

4:20 PM -- What would Silicon Valley be without its famous feuds?

OK, granted, neither Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) nor Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) comes from Silicon Valley originally. But their fight has all the same bitterness and drama as other famous chip rivalries like Altera Corp. (Nasdaq: ALTR) vs. Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX), or Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD) vs. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

Henry Samueli and Irwin Jacobs, founders of Broadcomm and Qualcomm, were ordered to hash it out in front of a judge in a day-long session yesterday, the latest event in a war that now includes 10 trade and patent lawsuits between the companies. No progress was reported from the meeting. Neither man came out with bleeding wounds or missing limbs, either, so that's something.

AMD-Intel was getting long in the tooth by the time I came on the scene. (I'm talking about the years-ago technology lawsuits, not the more recent antitrust case.) Still, Jerry Sanders, then AMD's CEO, was always good for a few WWE-style digs against his competitor.

The fight I experienced more directly as a journalist was Altera-Xilinx. Any nonnegative story about one of them, however minor, was sure to be followed up with a call from the other asking why they'd been left out. Altera seemed to take the battle more personally; I'd even heard of one exec who was able to retire but stuck on just because Xilinx had passed Altera in revenues, an injustice that could not be allowed to stand.

In all fairness, Altera seemed to mellow out after John Daane, formerly of LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI), took the helm as CEO. These battles are as much about personality and pride as they are about patents, or whatever the lawsuits are about.

With two rival companies, especially if they've got aggressive, brash styles and enough bad blood between them, you've got a good fight coming. Broadcom-Qualcomm has a lot of promise.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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