Intel Suit: The Chips Are Down

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WASHINGTON: Your PC is under attack. And if it's made by Compaq, it's at war with itself. The feds completed their one-two punch against the Wintel axis Monday by launching a long-expected antitrust complaint against Pentium chip makers Intel. The charge: that the California-based company, led by TIME Man of the Year Andy Grove, used its 90 percent monopoly to hit back at three dependent computer firms.

According to the Federal Trade Commission's complaint, Compaq, Digital and Intergraph all suffered at the hands of the mighty Intel because they refused to license their patented technology, and Grove responded in kind. "Intel retaliated by threatening to cut off the supply of microprocessors," says the FTC -- in other words, given Intel's near-dominance in the marketplace, holding a knife to their throats.

Cynics may see an attempt on the FTC's part to keep up with the Joneses -- or rather, the Joel Kleins -- at the Justice Department. The FTC usually shares antitrust actions with Justice, but dropped the ball on Microsoft back in 1993. By attacking Intel, FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky -- whom TIME Washington correspondent Bruce Van Voorst describes as "every bit as colorful, combative and tough as Klein" -- gets his share of the limelight. Not that the market is intimidated; Intel stock dropped a mere one-sixteenth on the news.