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The FTC announced Friday that it will formally examine whether Intel abused its dominant position

Somewhere at the headquarters of AMD, there must have been a cheer that went up on Friday.  After months of losing ground to Intel, employee layoffs, and under the shadow of Intel's looming Nehalem architecture, the company finally had some good news to be happy about.

It’s no small mystery that AMD these days simply seems incapable of outcompeting Intel.  Intel argues that this is due to its superior products.  AMD, however, has long maintained that Intel was deploying anticompetitive processes, which it says are digging it into a hole from which it cannot escape.  However, despite a passionate ad campaign and lengthy discussions with antitrust officials in the U.S., AMD has seemingly had a tough time selling its idea that Intel was cheating in the microprocessor war.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which supervises free trade in the U.S., announced that it was launching a formal antitrust investigation against Intel.  The stakes are high for both Intel and AMD; the total market for microprocessors racked up $225 billion in sales last year. 

Both Intel and AMD realize what’s at stake and have spent tens of millions in legal expenses and on public relations campaigns.  AMD had previous success in Europe, Korea, and Japan -- all of which have investigated Intel or threatened it with possible fines.  However, the biggest victory -- a U.S. antitrust investigation -- seemed out of reach until this week.

State authorities and federal appointees from the Bush administration have been taking a more lenient approach to antitrust that their European counterparts.  However, the major decision Friday marked a sharp new shift in policy. 

The new investigation originated with the new blood -- William E. Kovacic, the new chairman of the trade commission.  With the backing of his fellow commissioners, he reversed the decision of Deborah P. Majoras, the previous chair, who had been blocking the investigation for months to the frustration of those on Capitol Hill.  Majoras was a more lenient appointee, and helped work out the antitrust settlement in 2001 with Microsoft.

It will take months before formal charges against Intel might be made, so the upcoming administration’s stance will greatly factor into the case.  AMD is relying on the federal case as only one state -- New York, at the behest of attorney general Andrew M. Cuomo -- has agreed to investigate Intel on a state level.  California attorney general Jerry Brown denied AMD's pleas, derisively commenting that he was "not barking at every truck that comes down the street."

D. Bruce Sewell, Intel’s senior vice president and general counsel, says that the U.S. antitrust laws are different than European ones, and it will not be charged.  Intel is planning on racking up its Capitol Hill efforts, though, likely in the form of lobbyist dollars.

The first signs of the upcoming bad news for Intel appeared when chip manufacturers began to get subpoenaed by the FTC.  The FTC is working with Europe and other foreign governments to obtain evidence to use against Intel in a possible case.  Mr. Sewell said that he was working amiably with the FTC on a less formal review since 2006 and that Intel would remain cooperative.

AMD's top executives expressed their pleasure over the Commission's decision.  Tom McCoy, executive vice president for legal affairs at AMD, stated, "Intel must now answer to the Federal Trade Commission, which is the appropriate way to determine the impact of Intel practices on U.S. consumers and technology businesses.  In every country around the world where Intel’s business practices have been investigated, including the decision by South Korea this week, antitrust regulators have taken action."

The largest U.S. antitrust investigation since the Microsoft one of the 90s came the same week as more good news for AMD; Korean officials slammed Intel with a $25 million fine for violating its fair trade laws.  The Korean officials discovered that Intel illegally paid Samsung Electronics and the Trigem Company $37 million in payments between 2002 and 2005 to not buy AMD processors.  The European Union's European Commission (EC), which charged Intel with "the aim of excluding its main rival from the market" is expected to expand its charges this year.

Intel currently owns somewhere between 80 to 90 percent of the worldwide microprocessor market.  Many U.S. citizens do not realize that U.S. laws do allow monopolies, unlike elsewhere, but forbid companies with a monopoly from using its dominance to restrict competition.

With mounting evidence worldwide, Intel faces a tough case before the FTC.  However, it will likely do what it takes, or perhaps more aptly write the lobbyist checks needed to prevent it from becoming the next Microsoft.  Meanwhile, AMD will also likely step up its efforts in hopes that it can stop its downhill slide by a court victory over Intel.

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RE: If this is what it takes, so be it.
By Joz on 6/8/2008 12:37:58 AM , Rating: -1
And everyone forgets about VIA >_<.

As a person who has and still does use VIA products I say shame on you.

VIA Nano (Isaiah) is going to PWNt Intel (and sure as hell will pwn AMD...though, at this rate, im pretty sure VIA could just buy AMD if they wanted ;) )

By oab on 6/8/2008 1:03:24 AM , Rating: 5
Via is only competition in the HTPC and ultra-mobile sub-notebook market where low-power usage is critical. They can't compete in the regular desktop, workstation, laptop and server markets.

RE: If this is what it takes, so be it.
By borismkv on 6/8/08, Rating: 0
RE: If this is what it takes, so be it.
By copiedright on 6/8/2008 4:28:15 AM , Rating: 5
VIA is not worth remembering?

Maybe you should open up your computer and look at your motherboard sometime. If there's nothing VIA in there, try opening your NAS, if you have one.

I would bet that you would use something made by VIA easily once a week. Played a slot machine lately? Driven an expensive car lately? Been to a hospital lately?

VIA is the reason you are using DDR1/2/3 instead of RAMBUS!!!

And VIA's products are in no way outdated. The VX800 system chip supports PCI Express, DDR2, HD Audio, DirectX9, SATA2. The new VIA's Nano processor using the Isaiah out of order architecture, is 64bit and is up to date on the instruction sets used.

Just because they don't market directly at you and aim for power efficiency and affordability, does not make them inferior.

As for Intel's Atom.... Intel Atom is comparable in performance to the VIA C7 processor, which has been out for years. Although the atom is a lot more power efficient. But I would hope Atom would be, considering its built on a 45nm process and has 2-3 years of technological advancements.

As for VIA's Nano.... From current benchmarks it seems to be around the speed of a Intel CeleronM 540. Yes its not amazing, but it does so using a fraction of the power.

Yes I am pro VIA, Why? Because I have respect for a company that puts its engineers over its marketers.

By Ringold on 6/8/2008 4:44:06 AM , Rating: 2
Because I have respect for a company that puts its engineers over its marketers.

Whatever lets a firm with no CPU market share to speak of sleep at night. :)

RE: If this is what it takes, so be it.
By Strunf on 6/8/2008 7:15:22 AM , Rating: 2
"VIA is the reason you are using DDR1/2/3 instead of RAMBUS!!!"

Arguably I would say AMD is the reason for that. DDR 2 and DDR 3 are here mainly cause of Intel that somewhat supported them early when compared to AMD, VIA had nothing to do with it.

"And VIA's products are in no way outdated. The VX800 system chip supports PCI Express, DDR2, HD Audio, DirectX9, SATA2."

No PCI Ecpress 2, no DDR 3, no DirectX 10. 1 ... what an oldie.

"As for Intel's Atom.... Intel Atom is comparable in performance to the VIA C7 processor"

It's more like the Atom is 70% faster than the C7.

"I have respect for a company that puts its engineers over its marketers."

Yeah right like if VIA had never give us bugged products and what not.

RE: If this is what it takes, so be it.
By Lightnix on 6/8/2008 9:36:37 AM , Rating: 2
However, VIA's single core Nano can keep up with a single core Conroe-L Celeron M processor. That said, it even outperforms the hyperthreading Atom on multithreaded benchmarks, and absolutely crushes it on floating point performance.

RE: If this is what it takes, so be it.
By Strunf on 6/8/2008 1:23:33 PM , Rating: 4
"absolutely crushes it on floating point performance."
If you refer to the CrystalMark benchmark the Isaiah is just slightly better than Atom on FPU (less than 5%) and 28% better on ALU. Knowing that hyperthreading really helps the Atom I have my doubts that the Isaiah will outperform it on multithreaded benchs, and if it does it's not going to be by much.

Also the 1.6 GHz Isaiah has a TDP of 17W Atom 1.6 GHz 2W and the Atom can reach much deeper "sleep states", the Atom is not made to be blazing fast but to be the best performer on the area of performance per watt and cheap...

Now if you know of any other bench besides the CrystalMark please share them cause I have not seen any other yet.

By just4U on 6/8/2008 2:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
out of curiousity what would the Isaiah and Atom compare to in the P4 days? Performance wise that is.

By Chadder007 on 6/8/2008 7:37:06 PM , Rating: 2
Too bad AMD bought ATI....they might should have bought VIA for the Nano processor for this new ultraportable market that is starting up.

By Crank the Planet on 6/12/2008 7:19:32 PM , Rating: 2
You all are missing the point and getting side tracked with VIA. Intel has been accused AND FOUND GUILTY in several countries around the world. If the FTC does a fair investigation they will be found guilty here too. It's not a question of "if." What amazes me is the amount of money Intel has spent to keep this from coming to light. Even Mrs. Marjoras may be implicated.

Wow- justice is being served.

By Reclaimer77 on 6/8/2008 12:28:43 PM , Rating: 2
VIA is not worth remembering?

Oh I remember VIA. I remember that I will never buy another motherboard with a VIA chipset ever again.

By FITCamaro on 6/8/2008 8:10:18 AM , Rating: 4
In 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, VIA had some of the best chipsets out there. It wasn't until Nvidia and ATI jumped into the fray that their marketshare started to fall.

Hell VIA kept AMD rolling until those two started producing chipsets. Through the AMD64 days they still had excellent chipsets. My Athlon64 3200+ ran on a Via K8T800 board because the Nforce boards weren't as stable. And the K8T800Pro was pretty good too.

RE: If this is what it takes, so be it.
By benx009 on 6/8/08, Rating: -1
By rudolphna on 6/9/2008 10:10:28 AM , Rating: 2
Not all VIA is bad. I used to use an old Tyan S1854 Trinity 400 motherboard. It had a VIA Apollo Pro133 chipset, and it was a fantastic board. Paired with an 866 P-III coppermine, it ran great. Stable, no crashes. The Isaiah looks promising. I wouldnt expect it to be long before NVidia tries to purchase VIA so it can try to make CPUs.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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