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Intel makes wrong call with Skype

By limiting Skype's conferencing code to Intel only, the chip company hopes to imply technical superiority. Now is not the time for such marketing games
Written by Leader , Contributor

"…Intel's illegal actions hurt consumers — every day. Computer buyers pay higher prices inflated by Intel's monopoly profits. Less innovation is produced because less competition exists. Purchasers lose their fundamental right to choose the best technology available."

Extract from an open letter from Hector Ruiz, AMD's chairman and chief executive.

AMD's boss is very clear on why we should all take an interest in yet another antitrust trial worming its way through the US Justice system; given some of the revelations already emerging, his argument seems increasingly persuasive.

The latest chapter of the AMD versus Intel antitrust trial is especially engaging given the involvement of Skype — one of the darlings of the recent VoIP technology boom. You can almost hear the zeitgeist crackle and fizz. AMD is demanding to see documents relating to a deal between Intel and Skype to make one feature in the latest version of the Internet telephony software only available on Intel. The feature in question is the ability to make a 10 person conference call which for some unfathomable reason is not open to Skype users running AMD-based PCs.

There is nothing wrong with Intel helping Skype to write software, but the implication behind the deal is that only Intel processors can run such advanced software. The suspicion is strong that this is little more than marketing puff. It seems that some US marketers have failed to evolve much beyond their snake-oil peddling predecessors: this product has magical properties that you can't find anywhere else. What is in it? We couldn't possibly tell you that.

The problem for Intel and others so tempted is that times have changed and bluster is far easier to deflate. All it will take is one hacker to blog a patch to the Intel software and the company's left looking slightly silly at best. At worst, as AMD would like to suggest, it's more evidence of monopolistic practice.

If Intel wants to prove that its processors perform better than AMD's, it merely has to make them work that way. Attempts to finesse the issue will do the company no good whatsoever. Intel is proud of its high standards of corporate ethics — it should ignore no chance to demonstrate them.

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