The US Government is expected to bring anti-trust charges against microprocessor giant Intel this week.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating Intel's relationships with OEMs, but so far parties to the case have been very tight-lipped as to what charges will be brought against the chip giant. They could include allegations of releasing advance information to selected OEMs, tying OEMs into restrictive contracts and using its market dominance to cut out competitors.
Several PC vendors, including Intergraph, have confirmed to PC Week that they have been assisting the FTC with its investigations.
One senior executive at Compaq told PC Week the investigation had been sparked by Digital and Intergraph's disputes with Intel on the suspicion that "Intel selectively gives information to its friends".
The FTC is also believed to be examining how Intel shuts out competitors like AMD by offering preferential prices and marketing funds to OEMs based on the exclusive use of Intel chips in their products.
Also likely to be under scrutiny is Intel's licensing of patents to chip set manufacturers.
"Intel shouldn't be allowed to establish a chip set monopoly as well as a micro-processor monopoly," said Michael Slater, principle analyst at the Microprocessor Report.
The US Government is faced with a decision in both the Microsoft and Intel cases as to what is aggressive but legal fair play and what is an illegal restraint of trade and misuse of a dominant market position, he added. Legal action will not hit Intel as hard as Microsoft, as it is easier for Intel to make changes without damaging its business, Slater said.
Both Microsoft and Intel are expected to make concessions to the government.
For example, Intel announced last week that it has licensed its P6 bus-technology patent to an unnamed rival chip set manufacturer.
There has also been speculation that Microsoft will sacrifice Windows 98 to divert attention away from NT5, but this was dismissed by Fred Marx, intellectual property lawyer at Hemenway and Barns. "Everybody knows that Windows 98 is a side-show, and it would just be a gambit," he said.
Intel and the FTC refused to comment.
- See Analysis, p16.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago