Intel's Day of Reckoning Nears

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WASHINGTON: The Federal Trade Commission could file suit as early as this week against chip makers Intel, the Netly News reports. FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky charges that the silicon superpower is withholding vital technical information from its suppliers and competitors. "Our premise is that competition will feed innovation more than monopoly," Pitofsky says.

Kevin Arquit, former head of the FTC's bureau of competition, sees two ways in which an Intel suit could proceed. If the FTC focuses on withholding information from a competitor, as Intel did with Intergraph Corporation, that would be a less serious charge. A far broader argument would be accusing Andy Grove's gang of withholding vital technical data from computer makers unless they agreed not to incorporate any other products.

All of which will be very familiar to connoisseurs of the Microsoft case. Arquit says to watch how Intel has steadily integrated more functions into the chip, in much the same way Redmond has glued more and more functions into Windows. Unlike Microsoft, however, Intel is trying its level best to head off a lawsuit. Washington, one government source says, has been "swarming with Intel lawyers."