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US FTC Sues Intel For Anti-Competitive Practices 230

Posted by timothy
from the in-the-interim-please-use-the-ftc-compiler dept.
Vigile writes "And here Intel was about to get out of 2009 with only a modestly embarrassing year. While Intel and AMD settled their own antitrust and patent lawsuits in November, the FTC didn't think that was good enough and has decided to sue Intel for anti-competitive practices. While the suits in Europe and in the US civil courts have hurt Intel's pocketbook and its reputation, the FTC lawsuit could very likely be the most damaging towards the company's ability to practice business as they see fit. The official hearing is set for September of 2010 but we will likely hear news filtering out about the evidence and charges well before that. One interesting charge that has already arisen: that Intel systematically changed its widely-used compiler to stunt the performance of competing processors."
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US FTC Sues Intel For Anti-Competitive Practices

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  • Intel (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:30PM (#30461116)
    Our competitive practices aren't like your competitive practices.
  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:35PM (#30461184)
    Hopefully this will free up Nvidia to continue innovating in the integrated GPU arena. Intel's best attempt at competing against the year-old 9400M apparently only matches half of its performance at best. And wasn't Intel actively preventing Nvidia from competing for inclusion in the newest motherboard designs by failing to license certain Core iX chipset components?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WiiVault (1039946)
      Yes, and this whole suit bodes well for Apple and other companies who need cheap and integrated, but can't deal with the shitfest we know as Intel Integrated. As you said 9400M while still being low-end is quite capable for most uses, even some light gaming. The though of seeing a move back to Intel graphics in the Macbooks is enough to make me ill. Almost as bad as when they dumped PPC and with it the Radeon 9250(?) on Mini and iBook and replaced it with an Intel 950- that was a bloodbath. I remember worki
  • by kclittle (625128) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:36PM (#30461220)
    ... for better or worse, right or wrong. Here's another N-year legal donnybrook for us to enjoy.
  • AMD was robbed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by byteherder (722785) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:48PM (#30461406)
    Back when AMD's microprocessors were the state of the art (Athlon), they should have had 50% or more of the chip market. Intel only was able to preserve its market share through illegal means. Eventually, through the billions in extra profit they made, they were able to pull ahead in this technology race. AMD was deprived of billions is profit which they could have used for more R&D to make their chips more competitive today. I don't know how you restore a market where one player has been cheating illegally for a decade and now has a monolopy, but Good Luck FTC.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 0racle (667029)
      There were no shortage of 'experts' i.e. small business owners who ran local repair shops and snot-nosed brats who don't really know anything but heard bad stories about the k5 and k6 who turned everyone they could against AMD chips forever. I worked at a small business that catered to IT support for local small businesses and the 'senior' there would almost fly into a rage at the mention of using AMD or an Apple product, with the latter literally causing him to insult the client for even suggesting such a
      • Re:AMD was robbed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:07PM (#30462874) Homepage

        The reputation that AMD earned with the k5 and k6 was appropriate...Intel holding the lead during the time of the Athlon was as much Intels past ability to make a consistantly reliable product as it was any illegal practice.

        The compatibility issues on those chips was fewer than the compatibility problems with Intel's own chips. But if there is a problem with an Intel chip, the compiler manufacturers work around it, and the OS vendors emulate the broken instruction or code around it. If AMD has a similar problem, there are press releases and everyone suddenly thinks "oh, I need Intel Inside (r)"

        On the flip side, there was a period of a year or two where Intel's 440 motherboards were constantly experiencing compatibility problems. This was around the RDRAM era, which was another blight on Intel. But people continued to buy Intel during that period, even though AMD was winning in reliability AND performance AND price.

        There were fishy things happening during that time. Big OEMs making press releases about switching to AMD, then signing-on with Intel for a few years more. Yeah, maybe they were bluffing to get a bargain. Or maybe Intel did back-door dealings with the decision makers.

      • by bhtooefr (649901)

        The funny thing about the K6's "problems" was that it was never AMD's fault.

        But, AMD CPUs were cheaper, and AMD CPUs ended up in budget machines that had cheaper, crappier motherboards with crap chipsets. End result, unreliable machine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jpmorgan (517966)

      Reality would like a word with you. For AMD to have had 50% or more market share, they would have had to build 50% of the chips being sold. AMD has never had that kind of manafacturing capacity. In fact, one of the reasons why Intel is so successful is they have always invested heavily in their fabrication technology. Sure, Intel manipulated AMD out of sales. But the reason they were in a position to do so, was that AMD couldn't supply the volume of chips with the predictability to satisfy any of the major

      • Re:AMD was robbed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by byteherder (722785) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:36PM (#30463392)
        Is there some speculation in my orginal post. Sure. But remember, this was era when AMD market share was rising very rapidly, >+1% per month. Would they have run out of manufacturing capacity at some point. Possibly. Could they have build more. Sure, if they had the money. But that is exacty the point. Intel made sure they would never get the market share to get the money needed to compete. Never.

        Intel, at the time, had the market share, the fabs and the cash but what they didn't have is a superior product and wouldn't have more several years. If you are Intel what do your do? By any means necessary, your make sure your competitor does not get enough market share or money to threaten your monolopy. If you have the break a few laws in the process, so be it. Limit how much of your competitors chip the computer manufacturers will buy. Illegal but sure. Sell chips below cost. Why not.

        Now they are being called to task for their past actions. Not by just the FTC but by Japan, South Korea, the EU. They just settled a lawsuit from AMD for $1.25 billion.

        I am not saying that AMD is blameless for their current situation. They could have invested more heavily in fab technology. The purchase of ATI was possibly ill advised. They jury is still out on that one. They slipped up with the release of the Barcelona chip. All I am saying is that given a level playing field, things could have turned out much differently.
      • by modemboy (233342)

        What an uninformed post. AMD did not neglect their fabs. Hell they spent 2.5 billion building a new one in 2003 (Fab 36); and guess what, they still own nearly half of Global Foundries (spinoff) that is building a new fab in NY. They were consistently 6 months or so behind Intel when stepping down to a smaller process, which was faster than anyone else in the industry.
        Hmm and I wonder why they would have to sell off their fabs after investing heavily in them, perhaps it is because they were not getting the

  • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:13PM (#30461734)

    The FTC press release [ftc.gov] says:

    "To remedy the anticompetitive damage alleged in the complaint, the FTC is seeking an order which includes provisions that would prevent Intel from using threats, bundled prices, or other offers to encourage exclusive deals, hamper competition, or unfairly manipulate the prices of its CPU or GPU chips

    That sounds like a pretty direct strike against Intel's moves in the graphics market lately. Selling an Atom alone for more than the price of the same Atom bundled with a chipset, trying to prevent Nvidia from making chipsets for their Nehalem CPUs, bundling their own GPU on the package of all of their low to mid range next generation CPUs, etc...

    It should be interesting to see how Intel responds to this. It's probably too late to make any major changes to Clarkdale/Arrandale before they ship, so on-package GPUs are definitely coming. But imagine if Intel were required to sell bare dice at fair prices (surprisingly enough, packaging a die is one of the most expensive steps of chipmaking), so that others could do the same thing. Imagine an intel chip with an on-package Nvidia or AMD GPU...

    Sometimes I wonder if computers will always be built around motherboards as we know them. As motherboards shrink, and we start seeing multiple dice on a single package even in low end consumer gear, could the motherboard eventually be replaced with one big multi-die package? It would certainly reduce size and bring part counts down, and I expect it would allow for lower power consumption and higher speeds as well (although, of course, it would make building your own as an enthusiast impractical).

    • by modemboy (233342)

      Good point on the Atom pricing. I couldn't believe it when I heard about that, it is like Intel is going out of their way to get sued for anti competitive behavior.

    • Selling an Atom alone for more than the price of the same Atom bundled with a chipset

      This never happened. You're lying and you got modded insightful. Nice job.

      • Would you care to provide evidence that Intel never sold an Atom alone for more than the price of the same Atom bundled with a chipset?

        There are certainly articles like this one at Reuters [reuters.com] saying it did.

        • I don't need evidence, you made an assertion. But here's a hint - a lot of the articles you're referring to had poor wording. Intel sold the Atom chip for $X alone, and for <$X in a 3 chip set. The 3 chip set, however, was still more than X.

          See: Here [dailytech.com]

          They had to correct the wording, it is actually:

          Huang says that Intel sells the Atom chip alone for $45 but within a three-chip set (Atom processor, northbridge, southbridge) sells for only $25.

          In other words, Oh Noesies! Intel gives bundle pricing like everyone else in the world!!

          For the record, I guess saying you "lied" is a bit strong, I guess misinformed would be more polite but people keep sa

          • Ok, given the prices listed here [intel.com], it looks like the un-discounted components of a common 1.6Ghz/945GSE Atom chipset are $44/$26/$13 for the processor/northbridge/southbridge, for a total of $83.

            Intel doesn't seem to show bundle discounts anywhere I can find on their public site, so I can only guess at what exactly they are. If only the CPU received any discount at all, the discounted bundle bundle would cost $64, but if we assume the other components are discounted at the same rate needed to bring the Atom

      • They did the same thing with Centrino. A Centrino system contained a Pentium M processor with an Intel chipset. Intel gave kickbacks to companies which used both, in order to apply for the Centrino label.
  • It certainly can be argued that Intel was anti-competitive. But then again, there's no reason why AMD couldn't develop their own compilers instead of relying on Intel's.

    The irony here is that once the government starts imposing rules that imposes conditions on what a company like Intel can or can't do it has the unintended consequence of making things more onerous for would-be competitors. If someone else wants to compete in this market they're going to be forced to spend a lot more time and money meeting a

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Changa_MC (827317)

      While it is true that increased regulations are often a barrier to entry, thereby decreasing competition, that has nothing to do with this case.

      The FTC is not adding a new rule, they are enforcing an old one. And that rule can be summarized as: do not deliberately defraud your consumers in one market to make the competition look bad in another market (in this case, market one: compilers, market 2: CPUs).

      Any company that cannot stay within that rule will also not be capable of providing a benefit to the ma

  • by StormReaver (59959) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:35PM (#30462192)

    Like all US Government actions against large technology companies, this won't change a thing. There will be a dog and pony show for the public, followed by a relatively small bribe...err...fine, and business as usual for Intel.

    This won't change a thing.

  • One interesting charge that has already arisen: that Intel systematically changed its widely used compiler to stunt the performance of competing processors. If you're giving a compiler away for free to leverage processor sales, why would you bother to optimize it for your competitor's processors? Intel's giving discounts to PC vendors that agree not to use AMD is much more anticompetitive!
    • by blair1q (305137)

      Except they didn't do that, either.

      They gave discounts to PC vendors who bought a lot of Intel chips.

      They never tied the discounts to the vendors' not using AMD chips.

      After getting literally hundreds of millions of pages of documents in deposition and finding no credible evidence (and asking for delays of the trial date to continue requesting documentation), AMD came to that conclusion and accepted Intel's settlement.

      Intel's compiler writers didn't want to have to validate their compiler against AMD's parts

    • by jeff4747 (256583)

      If you're giving a compiler away for free to leverage processor sales, why would you bother to optimize it for your competitor's processors?

      Because failing to optimize it for AMD was not what they did.

      Failing to optimize is justified, in that you can not expect to put forth the effort for your competitors.

      What they did was put forth effort to explicitly sabotage their competitors. They could have just said "We're not optimizing for AMD" and gone on their merry way. Instead, they added code to make any pro

  • >One interesting charge that has already arisen: that Intel systematically changed its widely used compiler to stunt the performance of competing processors. I have to say, if I build a compiler, for myself and someone else uses it for themselves. I do not have to worry about them, seeing as I built it for me. If they offer it for free, then they have no responsibility to keep it friendly to anyone but themselves.

    Seriously, in this case I hope Intel wins, because they have the right to do what they did..

  • With the exception of my EEE, which I don't really get a choice, I always go with AMD. I've never had issues with them, they're cheaper and quite frankly I'll never forgive Intel for introducing such shitty video cards into the PC market.

    I opt for ATI because it's supporting AMD but more importantly I was very impressed with my laptop's graphics card. I've had the laptop for sometime and it still performs well. It's the best video card I've had in a laptop by far.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      Well, that's a sample set of 1.

      Only 0.599999999 billion more to go before we get a statistical significance as to the world's opinion.

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