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Intel antitrust cast settled

Trial halted but FTC expects a "more competitive landscape" for CPUs and graphics cards

Processor manufacturer Intel has been blocked from employing excessive tactics to hinder rivals, including threats and bundled prices, as part of an agreement with the FTC to halt impending antitrust proceedings.

The Federal Trade Commission had alleged the Intel used anti-competitive measures to secure a stranglehold on the market, creating huge problems for microprocessor firms such as ATI-AMD and NVIDIA.

Intel controls roughly 80 per cent of the processor market, with the FTC alleging that this had partially resulted from aggressive measures to dissuade the likes of Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, and IBM from buying AMD processors. Dell has previously been subject to a $100 million Securities and Exchange Commission fine for the receipt of clandestine payments from Intel.

The trial-halting agreement makes a number of stipulations intended to help competitors achieve more market traction, including the right to use contract manufacturers to increase chip production, to allow graphics cards open access to the PCI Express BUS and for chip-makers to merge with other companies without being barred from making Intel-compatible components.

"We are all looking forward to a more competitive landscape," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz in a press call attended by VentureBeat.

In the words of Doug Melamed, Intel senior vice president, "This agreement provides a framework that will allow Intel to continue to compete and to provide customers with the best possible products at the best prices.

"The settlement enables Intel to put an end to the expense and distraction of the FTC litigation. The settlement agreement is not an admission that any law has been violated or that the allegations in the complaint are true."

Intel's arch-rival AMD, which had been awarded $1.25 billion in a previous Intel antitrust case, said in a statement "The FTC has acted firmly in the interest of American consumers to safeguard the competitive process in the critically important microprocessor and graphics markets.

"In our settlement with Intel, AMD's critical remaining concern was Intel's use of all-or-nothing discounts to deny competitors' access to the marketplace. The FTC's order clearly and firmly prohibits such abuse and guarantees ongoing monitoring of Intel's conduct."

Intel has already paid an additional $1.45 billion antitrust settlement in Europe, though later this year it must weather a suit by NVIDIA over the right to create Intel-compatible motherboard chipsets.

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