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FTC should re-open Intel investigation

Let's clear the air of murky innuendo

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Opinion In hindsight, Intel's statement about why it has extended its law suit to comprise not just Via but a clutch of other firms more or less related to the Taiwanese company doesn't make as much sense as it seems. First of all, of course Intel has a duty to its shareholders. And of course it has a duty to its other licensees. But its latest legal maneuverings make it look petty, vindictive and scheming, even if it isn't. It isn't just little Everex which uses Via chipsets. HP, IBM and Compaq use this technology too. But rather than take on the giants like a real Chipzilla would, Intel gives the impression of choosing to stomp all over the little people instead. The mighty legal department at Chipzilla used to, maybe still does, operate on a profit and loss basis. It routinely churned out law suits against any company which looked like it might be a rival. It tied AMD up in one legal case for six years, and when Cyrix looked like it might steal some of its thunder, did the same with the small chip company. FIC, as it has pointed out in its official response to the Intel legal actions, makes six million motherboards a year. Some of its customers are respected international PC manufacturers, such as Compaq and IBM. Intel has come under a lot of flak recently and has been accused of bullying motherboard vendors to not publicise their AMD offerings. It has been accused of holding back BX shipments to vendors because it wants to promote its i810e chipset to the world. It vehemently denies these charges. As we have pointed out before, it does itself no favours by launching legal actions, and merely makes itself look like the bullying giant that many already see it as. Why, for example, doesn't Intel take out a system board patent action against Compaq? The response from sources inside the giant seems to be that it has cross-licensing agreements with Compaq that mean the Big Q doesn't violate patents. However, the deepa and abiding suspicion in the industry is that the reason Intel doesn't sue Compaq is because that would be a fight between giants that Chipzilla might well lose. In such a situation, Intel has a very clear duty, and that is to support the whole industry as well as its shareholders and licensees. It says in one breath that it supports competition, but was open at the last Intel Developer Forum about how paranoid Via makes it feel. Perhaps Warren Steiner's open letter that suggests the Federal Trade Commission should investigate these goings on would be the best course of action. An unbiased look at Intel's actions would clear the air and in the circumstances would be a timely intervention. ®

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