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     Agreement between the FTC and Intel
      Posted on 05/08/2010 at 12:31 by Marc
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    Following an official enquiry in June 2008 and beginning a legal action last December, the FTC has now reached an agreement with Intel. To recap, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is an American organisation set up to protect the anti-trust laws and related laws that aim to protect the consumer. The agreement has just been made public so as to give the public a chance to respond before any definitive validation by the FTC in 30 days.

    From a commercial point of view, the agreement aims to prevent Intel from conditioning exclusive supply agreements and from punishing customers who also order supplies from the competition.

    From a technical point of view, Intel will have to modify its agreements with AMD, Nvidia and VIA so as not to prevent them working with external foundaries at the same time as allowing them to be bought by, and merge or create joint ventures with other companies without being taken to court by Intel for violation of patents. Should they be bought, a limit of one year is imposed for renegociation of any license agreement.

    Intel will also have to prolong the VIA x86 license for five additional years beyond the current agreement which expires in 2013, and will have to maintain a PCI Express interface for at least six months within its mainstream platforms without this interface reducing the performance of GPUs which are connected.

    Intel will have to communicate transparently on discriminations between Intel and non-Intel CPUs carried out by its compiler and will have to reimburse any developers who want to recompile their software with a new compiler.

    All in all, quite a complete agreement which should please VIA, which now has access to x86 until at least 2018 and which will have more freedom in terms of its capital structure, and Nvidia, who are now guaranteed access to Intel platforms via the GPU, something that was, notably, no longer the case with Atom.

    Nevertheless it is to be regretted that, in contrast to the action taken by the EU, no fine has been imposed even though Intel has benefitted from anti-competitive practices for years so as to maintain higher pricing. The FTC demands in terms of the compiler also seem fairly light, as Intel had already given similar information in advance of the FTC announcement: we would have liked to see the FTC oblige Intel to integrate a CPU dispatcher (see here) for AMD and VIA processors so that they might be used according to their instruction set with this option.

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