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E-mail key to AMD's antitrust fight

Chipmaker intends to subpoena thousands of messages, its lawyers say--meaning PC execs, retailers and other parties could find themselves in court.

Advanced Micro Devices will subpoena thousands of e-mail messages, including ones from its key partners if needed, to help prove its antitrust case against rival Intel, a lawyer for the chipmaker said.

Charles Diamond, a lawyer at O'Melveny & Myers and AMD's lead outside counsel, told CNET on Tuesday that the computer makers, executives, retailers and other parties mentioned in the lawsuit may also find themselves in court and their documents subpoenaed.

"There is going to be a lot of 'he said, she said' in this case," Diamond said, noting that AMD's legal team is asking its potential witnesses to begin securing e-mail and other correspondence.

AMD filed its lawsuit against Intel Monday in U.S. District Court in Delaware. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based chipmaker claims that Intel is using monopolistic business practices, such as threatening retaliation against customers that do business with AMD. It is asking the court to impose punitive damages.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel has refuted the charges, calling its rival's legal case "full of excuses and speculation."

Attorney Diamond said his client initially based its complaint on some 80 interviews between AMD and its partners and customers. AMD's legal team said it will now use the "period of discovery," where companies may be required to submit corporate data as evidence, to fuel the chipmaker's case.

However, not all of the parties mentioned in AMD's 48-page brief are eager to discuss their relationship with Intel.

Computer makers from Dell to Hewlett-Packard declined to comment, as did Michael Capellas, former Compaq chief executive, and Ted Waitt, former Gateway CEO.

Analysts said it's no surprise these players wanted to remain mum on the topic.

"It's human nature," said Hans Mosesmann, a senior semiconductor analyst at Moors & Cabot. "No one wants to be dragged into someone else's fight."

Supermicro and AMD
The exception seems to be Supermicro Computer, which assembles systems for servers. AMD cited the company in its lawsuit as being reluctant to use AMD's chips.

"Supermicro, the preeminent system assembler for servers and other high-end computers, historically has followed the Dell strategy of never buying from AMD. This arrangement foreclosed AMD from a large part of the approximately one-fifth of the server sector not controlled by the Tier One (PC makers)," AMD stated in its complaint.

But after two years of negotiations, Supermicro agreed last year to begin developing a server powered by an AMD Opteron processor.

"We use AMD for our customers (that make hardware), and it's a small percent," said Michael Kalodrich, a Supermicro spokesman. "We had some pressure from our customers for quite some time to carry AMD, and we decided to do it to better serve them."

Last May, Supermicro began carrying AMD's chips, Kalodrich said.

AMD's brief includes various reports of Intel's interactions with some 38 companies, including large-scale computer makers, small system builders, wholesale distributors and retailers.

Among AMD's charges against Intel in the suit:

  • Intel paid Sony multimillion-dollar sums in 2003, disguised as discounts and promotional support, in exchange for absolute microprocessor exclusivity. Sony abruptly canceled an AMD Mobile Athlon notebook model.
  • Intel paid Toshiba a "very substantial" amount in 2001 not to use AMD processors. Toshiba thereupon dropped AMD. Its executives told AMD that Intel's financial inducements amounted to "cocaine."
  • In the summer of 2002, Fujitsu informed AMD that Intel had pressured the Japanese PC maker to remove Fujitsu's AMD-powered desktop models from its Web site.
  • Intel issued a "special discount" on Celeron processors that Fujitsu-Siemens accepted, in exchange for hiding its AMD computers on its Web site and removing all references to commercial AMD-powered products in the company's retail catalog.