The FTC paves the way for competition.
Intel and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have reached a tentative settlement in the antitrust suit filed by the Commission December 16. The FTC sued Intel alleging Intel had violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, which relates to antitrust practices.
Under terms of the settlement, Intel is not allowed to offer incentives to other companies to only stock Intel chips. Furthermore, Intel may not retaliate if a PC builder chooses to use CPUs from AMD or other make.
Intel is also banned from offering unfair bundling discounts that would make using competing, non-Intel products more expensive. This would presumably restrict the practice of Intel bundling together a chipset with a CPU that otherwise would be prohibitive to purchase a single part on its own.
It's believed that Intel offered its Atom processor at a significant discount when purchased with an Intel chipset, making it difficult for OEMs to choose competing solutions, such as the Nvidia Ion, without incurring a considerable bump in costs.
Intel must also support the current PCI Express bus standard for another six years, keeping the graphics playing field open to other companies. This would stop Intel from ditching PCI Express, making the on-chip graphics of current Intel CPUs the only choice for video.
The FTC agreement also stops Intel from blocking competitive processor technology through software means, so that any change in software compiling for Intel's CPU would be disclosed and documented. The FTC alleged that Intel's compilers were designed to make AMD chips look bad. Intel also has to provide a $10 million fund for ISVs who wish to recompile their code for non-Intel processors.
Intel must also change its licensing terms to allow for companies who have agreements for Intel's technology to merge. Current licensees of Intel properties, such as AMD, Nvidia and Via would risk their agreements with Intel should two or more companies merge, but the new revisions would allow for licenses to carry on even after a merger. Via will also be getting its licensing deal for x86 processors extended to 2018.
What the settlement didn't appear to cover, however, is chipset licensing. This means that Intel is still the only producer of chipsets for the current generation of Nehalem-based processors, leaving Nvidia stuck at the Core 2 series.
FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said it got 22 out of the 26 remedies it was seeking from Intel.
"We accepted this settlement because it helps consumers," Leibowitz explained. "Ensuring that this market remains competitive is essential to our future."
Even with this settlement, Intel feels that it has done nothing wrong.
"While Intel and the FTC have agreed to resolve that dispute, Intel is not admitting to any violation of the law nor does it agree with the allegations contained in the complaint," the company said in a statement.
Doug Melamed, Intel senior vice president and general counsel, added, "The settlement enables us to put an end to the expense and distraction of the FTC litigation."