Intel on FTC Deal: We Didn't Do Anything Wrong

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."

Read the FTC settlement document here.

(Sources: Register, Electronista.)

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • Jerky_san
    It still doesn't change the fact that it was a slap on the wrist.. And the fact that they purposely slowed down AMD processors compared to their own only makes it worse.. Its the worst type of cheating since programmers and consumers rely on competition to keep the world going round.. I am wanting to use the new AMD magna cores for a VM system but there are still people in our IT department that go on the lines that Intel is better and always will be..
  • accolite
    Playing the I'm not guilty routine, but paying the fine or settlement means they are guilty...
  • rohitbaran
    Hah, since when does a corporation like Intel admits its mistakes? One has to have guts like Valve to do that.
  • grieve
    wow did'nt i read almost this exact line in a HP statement two articles ago?

    ""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."

  • grieve
    My mistake, the HP article was posted yesterday, i read it two articles ago...
    not that it matters, there both guilty.

  • hellwig
    Give it a couple minutes, and Intel will find new ways to be anticompetitive.

    Seriously, if Intel spent as much effort on improving their product as they do trying to screw over their competitors, there'd be no need to screw over AMD and Nvidia. They got lazy, resting on their crappy P3/P4 architecture, and thats why AMD beat them (architecturally) between 2003-2006. Not because they weren't giving manufacturers enough "incentives". How about the fact that their on-chip graphics suck? Maybe in Larrabee were more than just a pipe dream, they could compete with Nvidia chipsets. No, instead they just lock Nvidia out of the chipset market, rather than improve their own offering. And dropping PCI-E to force out all graphics competitors, wow, that's a whole new level of corporate douchiness I hadn't even contemplated. What happens after 2016? We get Intel Express Bus, with heavy licensing fees?

    Oh, and crap, I blamed Marcus for this article by Tuan :,7837.html. Sorry Marcus.
  • danhitchcock
    hahah i love corporate drama. Nvidia competes with Ati, AMD competes with intel, nvidia hates intel, but nvidia can't be friends with AMD because AMD is ati....

    i'm not saying intel is guilty or not guilty of bad business practice, but maybe AMD could actually do there part and maybe advertise. they need to get there name out there
  • Poisoner
    This sucks because we need nvidia chipsets
  • falchard
    This may set bad precedence. Next up to bat, nVidia with its closed proprietary technology and .cg shader language that purposely makes competing hardware run bad while they bribe developers to use their technology.
  • TeraMedia
    I don't see how Intel cannot be accused of monopolistic behavior w.r.t. their Nehalem chipsets. Refusing to license other companies to create Nehalem-compatible chipsets is certainly no better than embedding your browser in your O/S.

    Somehow, I'm not sure that Liebowitz understands the significance of that particular item.