Why Intel Should Study the Microsoft Play Book

Opinion: The other half of the Wintel duopoly could learn a thing or two about how to win an antitrust case against some major odds.

They dont call them Wintel for nothing. Not only are Microsoft and Intel joined at the hip on all things product-related, but they also share another bond: They both have been charged in court multiple times by parties claiming they are monopolists guilty of abusing their market power.

AMD filed a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Intel late Monday, claiming that Intel is maintaining an illegal monopoly in the PC processor market. Among the charges AMD has levied against Intel: Forcing major customers into exclusive or near-exclusive deals; threatening retaliation against customers choosing AMD-based platforms; enforcing quotas among key retailers stocking Intel-based computers; and pushing PC makers and partners to boycott AMD product launches and promotions.

While most casual Microsoft watchers remember the U.S. antitrust trial focusing on Microsofts claim that its Internet Explorer browser was an inextricable part of the operating system, there were other bones of contention, too.

For example, OEMs complained about exclusive deals required by Microsoft; threatened retaliation; enforced quotas under Microsoft Market Development Agreements; and discriminatory pricing. And, just like AMD is doing, the DoJ claimed that the ultimate result of Microsofts monopolistic behavior was the loss of choice and inflated PC prices inflicted on consumers.

We noticed that AMDs complaint mentions "Microsoft" fewer than five times. But given AMDs desire to cultivate ever-tighter ties with Microsoft, that omission shouldnt be too surprising.

Matt Rosoff, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft research firm, concurred that there are some obvious parallels between the Microsoft antitrust case and the newly minted one against Intel.

"Some of the alleged tactics do seem similar," Rosoff told Microsoft Watch. "For instance, AMD is alleging that Intel offered OEMs rebates for buying Intel chips exclusively. This is similar to Microsofts offering rebates to OEMs for shipping Internet Explorer exclusively. The charge—illegal monopoly maintenance—is also interesting, as its the only charge that Microsoft was finally found guilty of.

"Im willing to bet that AMDs lawyers have studied the Microsoft-DoJ antitrust case very carefully, and will probably try and use some of the same arguments that succeeded all the way through the appeals court in that case," Rosoff added.

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