European Union Imposes $400 Million Antitrust Penalty on Intel in Ongoing Computer Chip Legal Battle

LONDON (AP) — In a stunning turn of events, European Union antitrust enforcers have imposed a fresh $400 million fine on Intel, reigniting a long-running legal battle that seemed to have concluded just last year.

The European Commission’s decision has sent shockwaves through the tech industry and raised questions about the reach of antitrust regulations.

The Background

This latest development comes in the wake of a decade-old controversy that has dogged the California-based chip giant Intel.

Back in 2009, the European Commission slapped Intel with a staggering 1.06 billion euro penalty. The allegations were that the company had employed illegal sales tactics to stifle competition from its smaller rival, AMD.

The accusations centered on Intel’s alleged abuse of its dominant position in the global market for x86 microprocessors. The company faced accusations of deploying a strategic combination of rebates and sales restrictions. These measures were aimed at squeezing out competitors and securing its monopoly.

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The Twist in the Tale

Fast forward to last year, and the EU’s General Court delivered a surprising verdict. While the court annulled the original hefty fine, it did not absolve Intel of all charges.

Specifically, it upheld the contention that Intel had abused its dominant market position through the imposition of sales restrictions.

However, the court needed more clarity about how the total fine should be distributed between the two offenses.

This indecision opened the door for the European Commission to reevaluate and issue a fresh penalty, which it did with a reduced fine of 376.4 million euros.

The EU watchdog explained that this lower fine was a result of a narrower scope of infringement compared to the 2009 decision.

Industry Ramifications

The repercussions of this decision are already being felt across the tech landscape. The fine levied against Intel sends a clear message that the European Union is determined to hold tech giants accountable for anti-competitive behavior.

It also serves as a reminder to dominant players in the industry that they must operate within the bounds of fair competition.

Intel, which has been at the forefront of the semiconductor industry for decades, is yet to respond to the EU’s latest move. The company’s European press team has remained silent in the immediate aftermath of the decision.

Last Words

In a legal saga that has spanned over a decade, Intel has been in an ongoing battle with European antitrust regulators. Recently, this battle has taken yet another unexpected twist.

The fine imposed is significantly lower than the original one. It still underscores the EU’s commitment to maintaining a level playing field in the tech sector.

The outcome of this case will undoubtedly shape the future of antitrust enforcement in the European Union.

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How was Intel’s removal of Alder Lake AVX-512 support a good decision?

The fluctuating saga of 12th Gen AVX-512 support appears to be off for good this time. According to an Intel spokesperson: “Although AVX-512 was not fuse-disabled on certain early Alder Lake desktop products, Intel plans to fuse off AVX-512 on Alder Lake products going forward.


The AVX-512


When Intel launched its 12th Gen range back in November, the AVX-512 was not enabled and the fiasco was accepted by a majority of the tech press. As per Intel, it wasn’t enabled due to the inclusion of two different architectures—the E cores did not support it although the P cores did.

Motherboard manufacturers used this bit of knowledge to cheekily allow users to enable AVX-512 after disabling the E cores. As a result, Intel issued new BIOS microcode to close off this loophole. However, that wasn’t the end of it, as MSI released a BIOS that got around the block. That leads us to Intel’s decision to fuse off AVX-512 in silicon.


Irrelevant to Users in Certain Apps


It’s the nuclear option, and it means no more workarounds to enable AVX-512 support. Users will still have the option if they are using an earlier batch 12th Gen CPU and don’t update their BIOS, but in a month or two or three from now, all 12th Gen stock will have AVX-512 blocked off completely.

AVX-512 instructions aren’t really relevant to gamers but in certain applications, they can result in dramatic performance gains. Some, like Linux creator Linus Torvalds, hate it. Its use leads to excessive power consumption and heat generation, and perhaps Intel decided that the PR hit from nuclear reactor memes wasn’t worth the trouble anymore. But that might not be the end of AVX-512 for consumer CPUs. There are rumors that AMD will include it in its upcoming Zen 4 CPUs. That would be a twist.


Steady Decision to Remove Feature


According to a motherboard manufacturer, Intel’s decision to remove the feature was made late in the design stage. That upset some in the industry as motherboards were designed with steep AVX-512 power requirements in mind. That doesn’t matter with premium boards but it adds expense to lower-tier models which are already more expensive due to various supply chain issues.

AVX-512 support isn’t the only thing Intel is unhappy with. There’s also non-K overclocking, though the feature is so far limited to expensive motherboards that are unlikely to be paired with cheap CPUs in meaningful numbers. If a vendor were to release a cheaper B660 DDR4 motherboard that could do it, it would make me and a lot of gamers very happy, but Intel would likely be stirred into action again.


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