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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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AMD helped MAKE intel
By 3dWings on 6/8/2008 11:09:29 AM , Rating: 2
I work as an engineer and have worked for some sizable companies. A policy of many of these companies it to source components that have a SECOND source.

IBM had a similar policy in the early 80s when the PC was born. Were it not for the fact that AMD made (albeit under licence) 8086 and 80286 processors as a second source intel would still be making memory as a primary source of income.

The derivitive processors, AMD 386 and 486 were clones of the intel parts and were directly comparable. AMD ran both those parts at faster clock speeds.

Here the fanboys differ, the 5x86 and 6x86 were howver no real match for the P11 and P111.

The first Athlon however kicked intel's P111 butt. A quote of a magazine atricle from that time described the "Best P111 is an AMD Athlon" (600). The P111 never really caught up as the Pentium Pro core was stretched.

Came the willamette core, it was horrendous, even the fanbois will acknowledge that. Northwood lifted the P4 cache and clock speeds and for a short while lifted performance from the Athlon... until the k8... which was top till the Core 2 architecture.

AMD has a case in so far as.... During the time of the athlon and the K8 there were times when AMD was clearly better performing. In a truly free market PC makers should have been flocking to these parts. They didn't. The documents that have been requested/ordered will hopefully prove collusion to the satisfaction of the USA and EU authorities. Documents have been taken to prove that in other parts of the world.

I am not anti intel, i am not pro AMD but the development of the chips we know and love in our PCs and MACs are the product of competition from the early 90s when AMD, CYRIX and intel began fighting for supremacy.

Without an AMD or equivalent the PC would be half the speed and twice the price.

Intel may not need AMD, consumers do.

RE: AMD helped MAKE intel
By Reclaimer77 on 6/8/08, Rating: -1
RE: AMD helped MAKE intel
By stonemetal on 6/8/2008 6:48:53 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah but they wouldn't have invested in research for improvements in manufacturing technology if there hadn't been competition. That stuff doesn't just fall from the sky. Why would they spend money if they didn't have to.

RE: AMD helped MAKE intel
By Belard on 6/9/2008 1:54:42 PM , Rating: 2

With no competition, you can set your own price. Yeah, sure - when there is a NEW chip, they cost more money to help cover costs - but also, customers are willing to pay the premo price for it. Look at the iPhone. P3 800Mhz was about $1000 brand new. Yet intel brought out the C2Duo at $300 or so. AMD dropped their prices overnight. Good for us in many ways. Intel wanted to hurt AMD and they did it. If the C2Duo was a $1000, it would not have taken over the market. Of course Intel had to kill off its silly $1000 Pentium4 Extreme Editions.

If Microsoft had only 40~50% of the desktop business, they'd be battling with a $40~80 OS. When Windows3.x was new - it was about $100. It was always a crappy FAKE OS (It ran ontop of MS-DOS which itself was $30~50) While AmigaOS was a $30~40 package, it had a far limited market yet it gave the customers a lot more over DOS or Windows3.

So we have Vista today that is $225 in a retail box... and people grumble when they buy it.

The 8800GT was up to $300 because of such high demand - When the ATI 3870 came out at $225, people were buying that card. Not both cards are about $150. The 8800GTX/GTs-640/320 never came down in price because (A) ATI had nothing to touch it (B) Nvidia had no mid-range card worth buying. Competition for the $250 market KILLED the $600 video card. Competition for that demographic brought prices down.

Hey, if I owned a company that made a device that nobody else could make, why would I want to sell it cheap? I'd sell for as much as the market will bear.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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