An Advanced Micro Devices executive claims that Intel and Apple cut a deal in 2005 that made Intel an exclusive supplier of processors to Apple, preventing AMD from gaining Apple business.
The claim, made in a phone interview with Tom McCoy, AMD's senior vice president of legal affairs, earlier this week, holds that Intel has had a longstanding deal to be Apple's sole supplier of microprocessors. To date, Apple has not used an AMD central processing unit (CPU) in any of its products. Currently, only Intel CPUs populate Apple's laptop, desktop, and server lineups.
This assertion by AMD comes in the wake of the EU decision last week to fine Intel $1.45 billion for violating antitrust legislation. Last week's EU decision centered on whether Intel used illegal tactics to deny processor business to AMD at PC makers.
McCoy said that a deal was struck when Apple moved from the PowerPC (IBM-Motorola) chip architecture to the x86 (Intel-AMD) architecture. The transition was announced by Steve Jobs at the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2005.
"They made a deal when they were porting over from PowerPC to x86 as to how much Intel was willing to pay for that port. My guess is that Intel asked for and won exclusivity in return for the help that they gave Apple to port," McCoy said.
McCoy continued: "That deal will not be exclusive forever and when that exclusivity is over, I'm sure they (Apple) will choose on the merits. We'll have a chance to compete for Apple's business when Apple is ready," he said. Intel denies this allegation.
Though McCoy did not make any direct charge of illegal activity regarding such a deal, the assertion is not that far removed from charges made in the July 2005 AMD complaint against Intel. AMD, in that filing, cited Dell, among other examples of exclusive Intel deals with PC makers. "In its history, Dell has not purchased a single AMD x86 microprocessor despite acknowledging Intel shortcomings and customer clamor for AMD solutions, principally in the server sector...Dell has been and remains Intel-exclusive. According to industry reports, Intel has bought Dell's exclusivity with outright payments and favorable discriminatory pricing and service." (Note: Dell, in 2005, offered no AMD-based products, though it does today.)
Whether the deal is exclusive doesn't in itself constitute a legal argument, according to Joshua D. Wright of the George Mason University School of Law, who has written about the EU decision in a blog, "Truth on the Market." "Under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, a plaintiff must show that the exclusive dealing arrangement harmed competition in the form of higher prices, lower output, or reduced innovation," Wright said, responding to an e-mail query. … Read more