Mulloy declined to confirm or deny the prices cited by Nvidia's Huang but said any bundling-related discounts Intel offers "are consistent with legal practices."
A potential gain for AMD
According to Balto, Intel is already fighting back through "a massive lobbying campaign to cool the FTC's jets."
"Their message is, 'We are the linchpin to the economic recovery, and if you are foolish enough to sue us, the economy will collapse and we'll all go back to the Stone Age,' " Balto said.
Mulloy acknowledged that Intel has beefed up its D.C. team in the past year, though he said they are there to help push Intel's broad "innovation agenda."
Rival AMD, meanwhile, stands to gain more from Intel's potential legal vulnerability than Nvidia.
The civil lawsuit filed by AMD, the long-standing second banana in the CPU market against Intel, is expected to go to trial next year in Delaware.
AMD already indirectly won when Intel was fined $1.44 billion in May by the European Commission for anticompetitive behavior against AMD. Intel was also fined $25 million in South Korea last year. The company has said it will appeal in both cases.
Some experts, such as Gordon, say that the EC ruling has little bearing in the U.S., because of different laws in Europe that explicitly favor underdogs.
"In the U.S., we probably wouldn't get too worked up if a small retailer were run out of business, as long as there were plenty of other competitors," Gordon said. "My sense is that the EU would be less likely to indulge that presumption."
"I strongly disagree," Balto said. "I think mainstream U.S. antitrust law would suggest what Intel does is a violation of the Sherman Act." Moreover, Balto said overseas antitrust rulings have a big impact on domestic investigations such as the FTC's.
"American enforcers will look at what foreign officials do," he said.