Intel and FTC discuss settlement

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Intel, the world's biggest chip maker, have filed a joint motion to suspend trial proceedings in the matter of FTC's complaint against Intel, which alleges it indulged in all sorts of anti-competitive shenanigans.

The pair said they are taking a month off to consider a potential settlement of the case which the FTC filed against Intel on December 16, 2009.

''The motion opens a window through July 22, 2010, during which time the parties will review and discuss a proposed consent order,'' a statement from Intel said. ''The terms of the proposed consent order are confidential and Intel will make no additional public comment on the matter at this time.''

The FTC alleges that Intel illegally used its dominant market position to stifle competition and strengthen its monopoly position in x86 chip making over a ten-year period.

The regulaor's charges against Intel are many and various but many impact on the graphics market where it iis alleged that Intel used a number of means to make life difficult for Nvidia and AMD.

The allegations include: "Adopting a new policy of denying interoperability for certain competitive GPUs" and "making misleading statements to industry participants about the readiness of Intel's GPUs.

Intel is accused of "bundling chipsets with CPUs at below-cost pricing to drive competitors such as Nvidia out of the chipset market." Furthermore the FTC thinks Intel may have designed the interface between its CPU and chipsets "in such a way as to prevent full interoperability with Nvidia and ATI graphics components at a time of its choosing."

It also encouraged the industry "to rely on standards that Intel controlled and represented that the standards would be fairly accessible," but the firm "delayed accessibility to the standards for its competitors so that Intel can gain a head start with its own products and wrongfully restrain competition"

"Intel's conduct has no offsetting, legitimate or sufficient procompetitive efficiencies but instead deters competition and enhances Intel's monopoly power in CPUs," the FTC says.

It also accuses Intel of publishing false or misleading whitepapers and benchmark claims.

The complant included a charge of distributing C++ compilers and software libraries with code which would run slower on AMD chips than on Intel's, which Intel said it would stop doing when it settled with AMD by handing over $1.25 billion weeks before the FTC filed this complaint.