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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: it's becoming ridiculous
By pjtomtai on 6/8/2008 5:09:17 AM , Rating: 0
You got it wrong. In fact I owned a 1.2G thunderbird, which was a piece of crxx, very hot and lack of SSE3. Barton is no match with northwood, people like Barton simply because they're dirt cheap. It was where AMD positioned its products, how could you expect a company to be profitable when the only competitive advantage is the price?

The only good product AMD ever offered was K8, and this product success did bring them tons of profits and their share price sky rocketed, and meanwhile Intel suffered badly and restructured due to Prescott. So the market was fair, rewarding the good performer, penalizing the under.

In free market, there is no "if" - if AMD had the money on R&D, if AMD didn't hire Hector... How about if AMD had a better K6 or K7 or K10 design?

AMD better forget about putting their hope at a law suit to recover. Realigning your management, executing the roadmap instead of only FUD, brining in a better product, these are the hopes. Consumers need better products, although mid night 2:00 entertainment news on crappy law suit does bring some sort of fun...sometimes

RE: it's becoming ridiculous
By SlyNine on 6/8/2008 5:26:05 AM , Rating: 3
Sorry man but Thunderbird was the basic design of the Althon XP's, And they TRUMPED your P4's right up tell Northwood, And Northwood A core did not beat the the Althon XP's it simply matched performence. Barton was such a great deal because the 2500XP like many of todays intels can be clocked much higher.

I remember the first day I got the 2500XP I had it running on stock cooling at 3200speeds. Then when I put the Volcano 11 HSF on it the horrable sound of the crunch, that was the exposed Athlon XP cores.

RE: it's becoming ridiculous
By AnnihilatorX on 6/8/2008 7:44:04 AM , Rating: 2
Thunderbird was a direct competitor to P4 Willamette, the first P4 that came out with performance inferior to P3, moe expensive due to RD RAM, and was hotter than even Thunderbird.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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