When historians come to write their theses on the IT industry of the late 1990s, Digital's lawsuit against Intel will either feature prominently or not at all.
In accusing the massive (and massively profitable) chip maker of infringing its patents, Digital (and co-conspirator Cyrix) has taken on a company that is no stranger to litigation and which knows its way round US courtrooms blindfolded.
But first, exactly why has Digital decided to take on Intel at this juncture?
It's reasonable to assume, given that it is suing over old Pentium Pro technology as well as the bang up-to-date Pentium II, that Digital has not stumbled upon the alleged infringements in the past week or so. Indeed, you don't have to be too much of a cynic to conclude that the timing - one week after P2 - is no coincidence whatsoever.
But that argument alone won't suffice: Digital may be a number of things, but it ain't stupid. Well not so stupid as to take on Intel in the courts and not reckon that it's in with a chance of winning. Robert Palmer, Digital's CEO, said as much last week and Cyrix was in an even more upbeat mood, saying it had never been beaten in the courts by Intel, despite years of wrangles.
Now the boot is on the other foot, it'll be interesting to see how Intel copes. For what seems like an eternity, the company has dominated a lucrative industry and maintained a monopolistic grip on a market that is key to the well-being of the entire IT community. It's been able to shrug off any problems, safe in the knowledge that its customers have had little choice but to go with the flow.
But there have been those companies prepared to tackle Intel, large and small. Digital apart, Cyrix and Advanced Micro Devices have been thorns in Andy Grove's flesh for a number of years, relentlessly niggling away and making life uncomfortable.
And little did we know it, but PC Week has got under Intel's skin in recent weeks over our revelations that Intel has halted Pentium II shipments to Elonex and AST because they dared to provide a computer magazine with kit equipped with the chip outside Intel's draconian non-disclosure rules.
Slapped wrists ensued, accompanied by a 30-day penalty and some rather twitchy phone calls to PC Week from everyone involved checking we'd "got the story right".
Whatever the outcome, one thing is sure. If lawyers are involved - and in the US that's unavoidable - then the situation could drag on for months or years, costing the protagonists a fortune. And guess who'll eventually pick up the bill? You.
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