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Intel reaches tentative agreement with FTC over anti-competitive practices

It has taken close to a year, but the antitrust case against Intel is almost at an end. The FTC and Intel have seemingly agreed on the list of corrective actions the chip giant needs to undertake to ensure a more even playing field for the competition, but is it a case of too little, too late? You decide.

Read on to find out more.

It is no secret that Intel often finds itself within the crosshairs of trade regulators , and the company’s latest run-in with the FTC is definitely not going to be its last. But the case is now at an end: after nine months of legal wrangling, it seems that both Intel and the FTC have reached a tentative agreement on the corrective actions the chip giant needs to undertake for abusing its position on the CPU market, and on the list are four specific restrictions.

The first restriction requires Intel to alter its licensing agreement terms with AMD, Nvidia and VIA Technologies. No specifics are given, but it is likely that the FTC wants Intel to allow competitors a greater degree of freedom to merge and collaborate without having to worry about a the chip giant unleashing its lawyers on them. Of course, this also prevents a repeat incident of the Intel vs AMD case back in the past regarding AMD’s decision to outsource the productions of its CPUs to other fabrication plants. More importantly, the fact that Nvidia is mentioned in this restriction might mean that the GPU manufacturer might soon be able to negotiate with Intel for licenses to create onboard GPUs for Intel’s processors which feature integrated memory controllers. But that will be purely speculation on our part.

The second restriction is unique in that it focuses specifically on VIA. In addition to the looser licensing agreements mentioned previously, Intel is also required to extend VIA’s license for five additional years after the current contract ends in 2013.

The third restriction mandates that Intel continue to support the PCIe interface for at least six more years, to ensure that GPUs can continue to function without suffering any penalties in performance. Apparently, this move was made to pre-empt Intel’s possible plans for dropping the interface entirely and leaving competing GPU manufacturers in the lurch with no usable interfaces. This is unlikely to affect the desktop market as PCIe is still the de-facto interface for discreet graphics cards. However, it might see greater impact in the mobile computing segment, as it will allow manufacturers to continue producing dedicated graphics solutions in addition to the integrated GPU built into Intel’s current processors.

Last, but definitely not least, Intel is also required to inform developers that their own in-house compilers produces only Intel-optimized code. In addition, Intel will have to reimburse developers who intend to compile applications with a non-Intel compiler. We are not so sure how this is going to work, but it probably means that Intel cannot push its own compiler on developers who refuse to use it.

Do take note that the terms which the FTC and Intel have agreed upon are still tentative. As such, they may be subject to changes in the next 30 days where it will be opened for public comment. And yes, we have noticed that there is no mention about any fines being levied against Intel this time. One can only wonder why.

Source: Ars Technica

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