The US authorities will allow the broad chip deal between Intel and Digital to go ahead, but not without safeguards.
A ruling released late yesterday by the Federal Trade Commission allows the two companies' pact - which gives Intel licensing and manufacturing rights to Digital's Alpha technology - to go ahead. But it could be reviewed if other semiconductor companies, including AMD, fail in their bids to license elements of Alpha technology.
The FTC also wants IBM and other semiconductor companies to license the Alpha technology to prevent Intel having sole control. But it is a moot point whether IBM is actually interested in doing so.
Digital and AMD have been in discussions for some time about certain semiconductor payments. The future development of the latter's K7 Intel compatible processor depends largely upon licensing the fast Alpha bus, which will be included in its Slot A technology next year.
Under the terms of the Intel-Digital agreement last October, Intel will foundry Alpha processors for Digital, although Digital and its new parent-to-be Compaq will continue to own and develop the technology.
A statement from Intel said that both companies will now seek to complete the deal as quickly as possible. The FTC said that it was keen to ensure the continued existence of the Alpha chip and technology in the marketplace and felt the Intel backing would do this by ensuring the investment needed in the manufacturing base.
The ruling will have little effect on other elements of the FTC's investigation into Intel. This is expected to be broadened after a judge said the chip giant's refusal to pass product information to workstation maker Intergraph, following a patent dispute, was a possible violation of antitrust legislation. Intel has said it will appeal against the Intergraph ruling.
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