The European Commission today told Intel it has to cough up $1.45 billion in fines, and it did so without the threat of sharks with fricken' lasers or blowing up the earth. Dr. Evil would be proud.
Intel stood accused of anticompetitive practices, allegedly offering large rebates to computer manufacturers and retail chains in exchange for snubbing rival chip maker AMD. Reports started trickling out earlier this week that Intel would be fined for its actions, with some savvy experts predicting it could be as high as $1.3 billion. While not quite as high, the 1.06 billion euros ($1.45 billion) the EC did settle on sets a new record, dwarfing the 476 million-euro fine it hit Microsoft with in 2004, also a new record at the time.
"Intel has harmed million of European consumers by deliberately acting to keep competitors out of the market for computer chips for many years," European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.
In addition to the exorbitant fine, Intel was order to cease all illegal practices immediately, including halting illegal rebates.
The sharp and steady decline in PC chip shipments in recent times can be likened to a tailspin. Market research firm IDC has published its appraisal of PC chip shipments in the first quarter of 2009. PC chip shipments are still in a nosedive per IDC, though the pace of their descent has decreased considerably.
Intel shipped 33 percent less Atom processors during the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. The decline in Atom shipments isn’t entirely surprising as suppliers have amassed a huge stockpile of Atom processors.
The first quarter bought some relief for AMD as its market share improved by 4.6% to reach 22.3 percent. AMD improved its standing in both the PC and mobile markets at the expense of Intel, which had its market share trimmed down to 77.3 percent from 82 percent in the previous quarter.
Citing "sources familiar with the case," Reuters reports that EU antitrust regulators believe Intel illegally paid computer makers to postpone or cancel the launch of AMD-based products.
An official statement from the EU regulators is expected to come this Wednesday, at which time it will have decided on an appropriate fine. There's been no indication so far of what amount it might be, however the largest fine ever handed out by the European Commission was 479 million euros, or $655 million, to Microsoft in 2004 for allegedly freezing out rivals in server software and products.
According to the report, EU execs will say that Intel gave rebates to computer makers in exchange for restricting the use of AMD chips, while also providing other incentives to retailers to sell just Intel-based systems. Sources say the ruling will order Intel to end the alleged illegal rebates by a certain date.
You may have thought Intel's Atom processor line was only suitable for netbooks and nettops, but 'au contraire mon fraire,' says Supermicro, who recently announced the launch of 4W and 8W Atom server solutions.
"Bringing the low-power consumption advantages of Atom processors to the server appliance market empowers our customers with energy-saving, quiet solutions that provide flexible expansion and storage features previously unattainable with Atom solutions," said Charles Lian, president and CEO of Supermicro.
Two platforms are being outfitted with Intel Atom chips, the X7SLA-L with a single-core Atom 230 processor, support for up to four SATA ports with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10, seven USB 2.0 headers, 2GB of DDR2 memory, and Intel GMA 950 graphics, and the X7SLA-H, which uses the dual-core Atom 330 processor and doubles up power consumption from 4W to 8W.
Both servers weight just 10 pounds and are under 10 inches deep, and both offer support for full-height, half-length expansion cards. They're also quiet thanks to a fanless chassis.
One of the best-kept secrets about Windows 7, its support for a Virtual Windows XP mode, has become a potential headache for a lot of computer users who want to keep running fussy legacy apps under Windows 7. To maintain high system performance, Virtual Windows XP Mode requires the processor to support hardware virtualization (and the system BIOS must enable the feature).
As ZDNet's Ed Bott reports, trying to figure out which Intel processors have hardware virtualization (known in IntelLand as VT support) requires a lot of time with the Intel Hardware Spec Finder. Ed spent the time, so you don't have to wonder about Intel desktop or mobile CPUs (but check the update on page 1 for news about some CPUs that are getting updated to add VT support).
What about AMD CPUs? That's a bit easier to figure out, thanks to a statement from an AMD spokesperson quoted by Cnet:
All CPUs AMD is currently shipping, except Sempron, include AMD-V and therefore support XP mode.With the exceptions of Sempron-branded processors and Turion K8 Rev E processors, all notebook processors shipped by AMD include AMD-V and therefore support Windows 7 XP mode. With the exceptions of Sempron-branded processors and pre-Rev F Athlon branded processors, all of the desktop processors shipped by AMD include AMD-V and therefore support Windows 7 in XP mode. Also, all AMD Opteron processors shipped by AMD from Rev F forward include AMD-V.
Want an even easier way to get the virtualization scoop on your systems? PCWorld recommends the SecureAble test page at the Gibson Research Corporation website. Run SecurAble to determine if your processor supports hardware virtualization, hardware data execution protection (DEP) and to learn if it's a 32-bit or 64-bit CPU. Give SecurAble a try and let us know if you found any surprises about your system.
Let Microsoft and Apple fight over who has the better platform and OS. Meanwhile, Intel has unleashed a new ad campaign that should appeal to viewers of either camp, assuming those viewers have a funny bone. The new ads showcase Intel as a different kind of rock star -- a geek uprising, if you will -- and if you're not amused, well, you just might not have a sense of humor.
The first of a series of ads stars Ajay Bhatt (portrayed by an actor), co-inventor of the USB, walking down an office aisle filled with giddy fans and signing autographs. A graphic appears at end proclaiming, "Our rock stars aren't like your rocks stars." While tongue-in-cheek, there's a bigger message Intel is trying to send, one which focuses on the brand and not the product.
"The fact that we're an ingredient, it's easy to get lost," said Deborah Conrad, VP and GM of Intel's corporate marketing group. "We really needed to put some meaning into Intel, so 'Intel inside' means something again."
If nothing else, it means a few chuckles, but Intel hopes it leads to better sales as well. No laughing matter, Intel's first quarter revenue slid 26 percent to $7.1 billion, while profit is down 55 percent. True to Intel form, the company will look to spend its way out of a recession, and that includes the new ad campaign.
Check it out here, then hit the jump and tell us what you think.
Well that was fast. Less than six months after launch, Intel has decided to start phasing out both the Core i7 940 and Core i7 965 Extreme. That leaves only the 920 as the last i7 standing out of the current trio of desktop Nehalem chips. So what gives?
We're not entirely sure. Some are speculating that the current crop of Nehalems were more about meeting a promised launch date than representing Nehalem for the long haul. Intel, however, maintains that demand for these chips "has shifted to other Intel processors." Regardless of the reason, you can probably expect Intel to release other i7 processors in the not too distant future to take the place of the ones being axed.
Customers will have to place final orders for the Corei7 940 by July 10, 2009, with the last boxed 940 to ship on December 4 and last tray of the chip on November 5, 2010. Final order date for the Core i7 965 has been set to September 4, 2009, with final shipments to take place on May 7, 2010.
Not even Intel could have predicted how wildly popular its Atom processor would be, because if it did, it might have scaled back production from the get-go. Instead, the No. 1 chip maker is reportedly keeping its eye on the Chinese market to make sure it doesn't sell too many Atoms, going so far as to reject orders from some China-based white-box vendors, says DigiTimes.
Intel did offer up a response, calling the story unfounded and saying it doesn't comment on industry rumors, but DigiTimes' un-cited sources insist that they're being watched very closely to prevent a surge of Atom chips in China. The sources added that Taiwan-based Intel CPU distributors have had to stop accepting orders from China-based white-box makers.
It might seem strange that Intel would look to sell less product, however fierce competition in China among white-box players has started to cut into traditional notebook sales where there exists a greater profit margin. It's easy to see why, at least in this case, Intel would want to scale back Atom sales, if in fact the chip maker is doing that.
Taiwan IC distributors expect that the supply of Atom processors will fall short of demand by 500,000 units this month in China.
SolidLogic’s latest release, the GS-L10 is completely covered in heat sinks. Why? Well, to put it simply, it features no fans whatsoever.
The GS-L10 is built off of a Serener case and features an MSI MS-9818 motherboard. It’ll also support up to three different Intel Montevina processors, with the highest available model being the 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo T9400, can pack up to 4GB of RAM, gives you the option of HDD or SDD storage, and provides the choice of Windows XP, Vista or Ubuntu.
The base model will only run you roughly $860, but if you’re looking to deck this bad boy out with all the fixings, it can go up to $1,900.
Let it not be said that the European Union is playing favorites when it picks on Microsoft. The powerful antitrust regulators have now set their sights squarely on Intel, and the fines could be much worse. The commission began investigating Intel’s sales practices in late 2000 when AMD filed its initial complaint. Both chip makers are US based, but European regulators are historically much more aggressive at punishing monopolistic behavior than their American counterparts.
The chip maker has allegedly been accused of giving large rebates to computer manufacturers and retail chains to carry Intel exclusively, or in some cases, to downplay the AMD offerings. In some situations, Intel is even accused of offering server chips below cost to help corner the market. Intel denied any wrong doing and according to Intel spokesmen Robert Manetta, “Over all, Intel’s conduct is lawful, pro-competitive and beneficial to consumers.” Intel has every right to be concerned over the investigation however, since the fines imposed are rumored to dwarf those faced by Microsoft. In the 2004 EU antitrust verdict against Microsoft, the software giant faced a fine of close to $663 million US. Intel on the other hand could be facing a penalty of $1.3 billion or more according to experts.
Intel currently controls around 81.9 percent of the global market for CPU’s, while AMD scrapes by with only 17.7 percent. A guilty ruling could put Intel into further hot water after being found guilty of anti competitive practices in South Korea less than a year ago. They are appealing the $19.5 million fine, but this is chump change compared to the $3.6 billion penalty the European union is capable of leveling.