Print 50 comment(s) - last by rcc.. on Aug 10 at 1:37 PM

The FTC has banned Intel from paying off OEMs to exclusively carry its products or to NOT carry AMD products.  (Source: The New York Times)
Settlement also establishes $10M USD fund that could help OEMs switch to AMD or NVIDIA

Intel, like Microsoft, built a seemingly ironclad lead through a combination of great products and aggressive business maneuvering.  Those maneuvers could be viewed as clever moves or destructive anticompetitive behavior -- it all depends on who you ask.  However, in recent years Intel, like Microsoft, has come under increasing pressure to stop its more "creative" business tactics.  Fined $1.45B USD by the European Union last year, Intel has just arrived at a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over numerous antitrust issues.

While the settlement is less painful fiscally than the EU ruling, it will have a major impact on the way Intel conducts its business.  Intel is no longer allowed to pay off (either directly, or through unit discounts) OEMs to exclusively carry Intel CPUs or to not carry competitor Advanced Micro Devices' CPUs.  Likewise, it can no longer retaliate against OEMs who opt to offer competitive products.

Intel is also banned from specifically redesigning its chips to harm its competitors.  Specifically it will be forced to not limit the performance of rivals' GPU chips for at least the next six years.  Also, it must publish clearly that its compiler discriminates against non-Intel processors (such as AMD's designs), not fully utilizing their features and producing inferior code.

The settlement concludes a suit launched by the FTC in December following an investigation.  While it brings no major fines against Intel, it does require Intel to pay $10M USD to establish a fund to help business customers retool their software if they were misled by Intel to think the poor performance of Intel-compiled code on AMD chips was normal. 

Intel’s general counsel, A. Douglas Melamed comments, "[This settlement will] put an end to the expense and distraction of the FTC litigation.  This agreement provides a framework that will allow us to continue to compete and to provide our customers the best possible products at the best prices."

The settlement removes a critical piece of the remaining U.S. litigation on Intel's plate.  Previously, Intel had agreed to a $1.25B USD payout to settle a civil case with AMD last November.  The only major remaining legal action against it now is a lawsuit from the state of New York, alleging illegal anticompetitive behavior.

While the antitrust litigation of the turn of the millenia did not derail Microsoft or significantly alter its PC operating system market share, the latest round -- this time against Intel -- could have a more serious impact.  Unlike Microsoft, Intel has a very aggressive rival in its core business -- AMD.  Last year AMD's CPU shipments grew 17.7 percent on a year-to-year basis, giving it a 19.4 percent market share.  Intel, meanwhile, saw its lead shrink, posting an 80.5 percent market share.

From 2003 to 2006 AMD produced CPUs that were widely considered to outperform similarly priced Intel designs.  While other issues also hampered AMD, it alleges that it largely failed to gain market share during this era thanks to Intel's questionable business practices -- and legal settlements seem to back up this claim.

AMD seems revitalized once more, having taken the discrete graphics sales crown from NVIDIA, thanks to its head start with DirectX 11 GPUs.  If it can duplicate this success on the CPU market, this time it may finally be able to see its hard work pay off with increased OEM adoption -- now that Intel can no longer pay off OEMs not to use its products.  The ball is in AMD's court, as they say.

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By rcc on 8/4/2010 2:28:54 PM , Rating: 3
Also, it must publish clearly that its compiler discriminates against non-Intel processors (such as AMD's designs), not fully utilizing their features and producing inferior code.

Put a note on the box. If you are compiling for an AMD product, please use an AMD compiler.

RE: Compilers
By fic2 on 8/4/2010 2:55:30 PM , Rating: 2
I thought this was stupid. Why not just prohibit the Intel compiler from checking to see what processor code was running on?

RE: Compilers
By Ammohunt on 8/4/2010 3:31:50 PM , Rating: 2
Becasue it would lead to unpredictable results if a non-intel cpu is used?

RE: Compilers
By dubyadubya on 8/4/2010 5:37:05 PM , Rating: 2
That is true it could happen, just to many variables. What was really said was Intels compiler output special code for non Intel hardware that was slower and less stable than code not run though Intel's compiler. This may be true to this day but lets hope not. Back in the day I used a hack to make software and windows 95 see my Cyrix P166+ as an Intel CPU. The performance improvement was 20-30% when running Intel compiled code.

On a side note AMD's K6, K6 II and K6 III was actually capable of better floating point performance than Intel CPU's at the time. We just never got to seen how good they were because no consumer level programs were ever optimized for them. Its too bad AMD never had their own compiler. Do mainly do to cost I would guess? Bottom line when the AMD K8 came out it beat Intel P4 with pure hardware horsepower not optimized software. Quite an accomplishment if you ask me.

RE: Compilers
By Ammohunt on 8/4/2010 7:03:07 PM , Rating: 2
In the meantime there is always gcc which does a pretty damn good job compiling for whatever architecture with the right flags. AMD would be smart to offer their own open source compiler or help with gcc optimizations for AMD cpu's

RE: Compilers
By rcc on 8/4/2010 5:41:38 PM , Rating: 2
Because it would need to know what processor features it could use?


RE: Compilers
By fic2 on 8/4/2010 5:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
I am pretty sure there are query bits for features.

RE: Compilers
By Fritzr on 8/8/2010 10:55:12 PM , Rating: 2
The Intel compiler very likely has such a checklist.

If Intel product
then enable optimization code for all available extensions
-if 32 bit code
-then emit i386 generic code
-else emit x64 generic code

This simplifies the compiler as there are no optimization routines for instruction sets not used by Intel processors.

This kind of thing has been happening for a long time. 8080 code was compatible with the entire 808x line and the Z80. 8086 and Z80 had incompatible extensions.

You could compile for all 808x compatibles, specific members of the 808x family & Z80 or by targeting 8080 you could generate run on everything code for the 808x family

RE: Compilers
By aegisofrime on 8/4/2010 8:09:46 PM , Rating: 2
The last time I checked, there wasn't an AMD compiler.

If there is please let me know because I really want to compile x264 for my Phenom II. :)

RE: Compilers
By rcc on 8/10/2010 1:37:43 PM , Rating: 2
Talk to AMD??

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