EU antitrust officials raid Intel

update Dell is among those questioned Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation into the chipmaker. AMD applauds the inquiry.

updateEuropean regulators raided the offices of Intel and a number of PC-related companies early Tuesday as part of an antitrust investigation into the chip giant.

As part of the dawn raid, European Commission officials and national competition authorities in Milan, Italy; Munich, Germany; Madrid, Spain; and Swindon, England, descended on several Intel offices, a Commission representative said and an Intel representative confirmed. The officials also visited a number of companies that manufacture or sell computers.

"These inspections are being carried out within the framework of an ongoing investigation," a Commission representative said.

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Intel said it is cooperating fully with investigators.

"Our normal business practice is to cooperate, and we are doing (that) so far in this case," Intel representative Chuck Mulloy told CNET "We firmly believe that our business practices are fair and lawful."

The United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading, or OFT, said that it had assisted the European competition authorities in an "on-site inspection" of Intel's Swindon offices.

"It is really a European Commission matter," said an OFT spokeswoman. She said the inspection was likely to have been carried out under article 81 of the EC Treaty, which prohibits price fixing and other distortions of competition within the European Union. The spokeswoman could not say whether anything was removed from Intel's offices.

The investigation comes just weeks after rival Advanced Micro Devices filed suit against Intel, alleging the chip giant has used scare tactics and coercion to prompt computer makers and other companies to use Intel's chips instead of rivals'. Intel's chief executive, Paul Otellini, has said that he expects his company to come out on top in the dispute.

In the European inquiry, other PC makers and retailers were reportedly questioned.

Dell, which exclusively sells products based on Intel chips, said the company's headquarters in Bracknell, England, were visited Tuesday by officials from the Commission's competition division. But the company declined to give details of what the officials were doing or the nature of the visit.

As of 5:30 p.m. local time, Commission investigators were still on the premises and Dell was cooperating fully, said Claire Ramage, a Dell representative in Europe.

European representatives of Hewlett-Packard said that the company's offices were not visited by Commission officials on Tuesday. IBM representatives were not immediately available to comment.

Other PC makers had little to say. German electronics retailer MediaMarkt declined to state its relationship with either Intel or AMD. And DSR Retail, the parent company for U.K.-based online retailer Dixons, declined to say whether it was visited as part of the probe, but reiterated its earlier stance that a reference to Dixons in AMD's complaint against Intel is factually incorrect.

A source familiar with antitrust issues predicted that Intel will not have much to say about the probe right away.

"Normally, these companies are pissed when their offices are raided, but there is nothing they can do about it," the source said. "They see

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