Getting to the bottom of AMD v. Intel

Commodity computing will never be same

Pardon me if my writing's a little raspy. I learned yesterday that I'm the subparent of a beautiful baby antitrust lawsuit. I've been up all night looking at pictures. Oh, look! He's got my puns! One day old and this guy's already mean as a stepped-on snake, just like me and his dozens of parents. But right now he's my boy; I've got him to myself. Who's my little monopoly buster? Are you gonna bring choice back to commodity computing? Yes, you are. What? Gasp, his first words! "Tre-ble da-ma-ges." I need a moment. Look at the ads in the rest of the magazine for a second.

AMD just laid 48 pages' worth of smack down on Intel by way of the Delaware federal district court. It's a hell of a read -- and not just because AMD quoted me in it. (Yes, let's all revel in my humility for a moment.) But if you don't have time to peruse AMD's complaint just now, I'll give you the gist of the argument. AMD claims that system makers' poor uptake of AMD processors is the direct result of Intel's monopoly control of pricing, incentives, and supply. At every level, from retail to distribution to first-tier system makers, the claim goes, Intel makes the use of AMD as a supply option too expensive to consider. That means absolutely everyone with money in the computing technology market has a huge stake in this.

It's not just that the deck is stacked against AMD. Competitors stack the deck against one another all the time. That's how the market is supposed to work. Genteel behavior among competitors is neither expected nor, in many sectors, beneficial. But Intel's history with AMD -- both here and in Japan -- is the stuff of infamy.

I've been on top of the AMD/Intel story literally from the jump, as have many creditable members of the grassroots community. I and these many observers greeted AMD's allegations with "What else is new?"

Personally, I think this whole affair stinks worse than the SCO Group v. Everybody (see my blog for a more detailed argument). Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I will be dialing back my outrage just a bit and will instead concentrate on ongoing developments in the case. I recognize, however, that I need more than my knowledge of AMD's technology, my nose, my gut, and AMD's claims to go on. No one can responsibly draw conclusions about a case of this complexity without the facts, and I've dedicated myself to gathering them.

To that end, I have set up a dedicated phone line -- (415) 978-3326 -- and e-mail address (AMDvIntel@infoworld.com) to gather firsthand anecdotes and facts related to this case and to the parties involved. I will honor confidentiality requests, of course, but I'm hoping to hear information from parties willing to go on the record, particularly from the channel -- distributors, resellers, system makers, and suppliers of components (motherboards, chip sets, and so on).

As I gather my data, I'll tell you what I learn, regardless of which side of the argument it favors. AMD may win or lose this one, but it will certainly see the case to its finish. And even if AMD loses or gets indefinitely sandbagged in court (a more likely scenario), AMD v. Intel will disrupt the commodity computing landscape. In my opinion, that disruption is overdue.

Now let's see how the facts stack up.

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