The FTC has modified the agreement it reached with Intel that settled antitrust complaints against the chip maker. The modification removes an interface requirement from Intel's "Oak Trail" Atom platform.
According to the FTC, the agreement was amended to allow
Intel to ship its upcoming "Oak Trail" Atom platform without the
required PCI Express interface because Intel began manufacturing it before the
two sides reached the settlement Aug. 4. The FTC's modification will allow
Intel to ship the Oak Trail chip until June 2013, but all future generations of
the chip after that date must come with the PCIe interface.
In December 2009, the FTC filed suit against Intel, alleging
that the chip maker abused its market dominance to illegally quash competition
from the likes of Advanced Micro Devices, Via Technologies and Nvidia by
offering system makers special discounts and rebates in return for limiting
their use of products from those other companies, or by threatening
The FTC also said Intel altered some of its technologies,
such as compilers, so that they would hinder the performance of AMD
products, and then laid the blame for the poor performance on AMD's
The accusations echoed similar claims made against Intel,
not only by rivals like AMD and Nvidia, but
also by other regulators, including the European Commission and the N.Y.
Attorney General's Office. Intel executives have steadfastly denied that their
business practices-while aggressive-violated antitrust laws.
Intel last year settled its long-running legal dispute with AMD,
and currently is appealing a $1.45 billion fine levied by the EC. The chip
maker reached a settlement with the FTC in August that outlined what Intel
could and could not do in regard to its competitive business practices.
One of those provisions was the inclusion of the PCIe
interface in the Intel chips for at least six years to ensure that they could
not limit the performance of graphics chips, and to let Nvidia, AMD
and others more fairly compete against Intel.
The FTC's modification excludes the Oak Trail Atom platform
from that requirement. Oak Trail, designed for such form factors as tablet PCs
and thin notebooks, will start appearing in systems in 2011.
The FTC also said that it rejected the arguments from some
parties, including Via and chip designer ARM,
that the agreement reached with Intel was not punitive enough on the giant chip
maker. Via sought some changes in the original agreement, and ARM-which
is coming into closer competition with Intel, as Intel is looking to muscle
into the mobile handset market that is dominated by ARM-designed
processors-asked the FTC to extend the order against Intel beyond the x86
market. The FTC rejected the suggestions from both vendors.
The FTC's suit against Intel refueled debate over the
federal government's more aggressive stance in antitrust cases, particularly in
the high-tech industry. Regulators not only are looking at Intel, but also
other major tech players, including IBM.
Some see the government's actions as necessary to level the playing field and
to stop actions that they say ultimately are harming consumers. However, others
see the regulators at creating an anti-business atmosphere in the United