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Sunday, August 03, 2008


Intel vs. AMD, an object lesson

Buried in more than 150 million pages of documents compiled in the legal dispute between Silicon Valley chip makers Advanced Micro Devices and Intel is a remarkable tale of alleged corporate nastiness that could keep the courts and regulatory bodies buzzing for years.

AMD accuses Intel of a broad array of abuses, including:

• Purposely designing Intel's compilers - programs it sells that translate software from independent vendors into a language machines can read - so that computers using AMD chips would suffer degraded performance "or simply crash."

• Offering a high-ranking Tech Data executive a $1 million bribe to stop doing business with AMD. When the executive turned the money down, AMD claims, an Intel representative responded, "How much would it take?"

• Pressuring Hewlett-Packard "to consider firing" an HP executive involved in a proposed deal in which AMD promised HP 1 million free chips to gain access to its business computers in 2002. Consequently, HP took only 160,000 of AMD's free chips.

• Withholding delivery of server chips that Compaq "desperately needed" in 2000 after Compaq did business with AMD, prompting Compaq Chief Executive Michael Capellas to stop buying AMD chips, saying he "had a gun to his head."

• Threatening Acer with "severe consequences" if it went ahead with its plan to promote AMD's new Athlon64 chip in 2003 while delaying payment of at least $15 million it owed Acer. As a result, Acer withdrew its promotions for the AMD chip. (Source)
And why am I telling you about this? Because it makes all the more real something I wrote four years ago, about the very real economic war waged by the U.S. against Cuba, two "rivals" whose relative economic might is orders of magnitude more different than the relative economic strength of Intel and AMD. And because it's important to understand that the U.S. economic war against Cuba goes way beyond the blockade, which the U.S. calls an "embargo," and without question encompasses a range of dirty tricks which put these by Intel to shame.

Here's what I wrote:

Imagine if Microsoft set out to crush a smaller rival, a much smaller rival, one so small you've probably never heard of them, let's call them CubaSoft. Now imagine they're doing so in the absence of any law which will restrain their behavior. Imagine if they went to their customers and said, if you buy any software from CubaSoft, we won't let you buy any of our software. Imagine if they went to software stores (back in the day when software was actually sold in stores) and said, if you sell CubaSoft software, you can't sell our software. Imagine if they prevented MSN subscribers from visiting the CubaSoft website, and prevented Hotmail users from sending email to CubaSoft. Imagine if they threatened to pull their sponsorship from a software developer's conference if they allowed anyone from CubaSoft to register. None of these analogies is exxagerated in the slightest compared to what the U.S. is doing to Cuba. Now think about how incredible it is that Cuba has managed to stand up to this constant pressure, the price they are paying for doing so, and the absolutely despicable nature of the people who maintain this policy, claiming that they are doing the Cuban people a favor by making them suffer.

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