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Intel strong armed vendors at AMD launch

Do you really want to go to the ball?
Fri Apr 25 2003, 10:23
THE OPTERON LAUNCH was a bright, loud, festive occasion, with bigwigs from companies high and low filling every corner, and eating those little things served in an artful way on silver trays, lanced with toothpicks. I salute those brave enough to try them, and if anyone was there, what were the striped square things next to the buns filled with yellow goo?

For all the festivities and free food-like, there was one thing missing, vendors. The vendor area had about 20 companies showing their very impressive wares. The ones that stuck out were the servers from Atipa and the clusters from Appro and Racksaver. None of these were lightweight machines, or anything close to white boxes.

Hector Ruiz even had a Boxx workstation running, you can just see it by the podium ( here) in picture 2. Impressive to say the least.

When things moved down to the Q&A session in the basement, AMD had a stand in back of the seating area filled with motherboards and cards. There were eight motherboards, one of which was a workstation board, and about as many assorted cards. There were Gigabit ethernet, SCSI, and various server oriented cards. My first thought was "I must have missed the big display when I walked through the vendor area earlier".

I ran into Tyan, MSI, ATI, and Nvidia representatives, all of which had some really cool hardware to tell me about, but nothing to show. In fact, other than the people there, the glossy product sheets, and the names listed as 'partners' on the official launch materials, there was a decided absence of anything proving their existence. It was a small venue (Historic in PR terms), but not that small. I thought it strange, but quickly rationalized it by thinking that it was a server launch, not a parts, or even an architecture launch. Today was meant to show AMD's server capabilities.

Moving on, I started talking to the vendors, asking the usual questions about the products, can they spill the beans on upcoming stuff and the like. Tidbits aside, there wasn't much new information there, it has all been covered before the launch. By about the third vendor, one thing stuck out, and stuck out big. They all told me that prior to the launch, they received a phone call from Intel. Intel asked if they were going to the launch. If they replied yes, the Intel rep asked them if it was 'important to them to go', or 'if they really wanted to go'.

Pressing the vendors, I got the same response, 'Intel is too smart to threaten us directly, but it was quite clear from that phone call that we would be risking our various kickback money if we went'. If one vendor had said this to me, or even two, I would have put it down as little more than an annoyed vendor, but they all told me this. When asked for clarification, the stories sounded more and more alike, a pleasant sounding phone call from the Intel rep that made the hair on the back of their necks stand on end, and left no doubt in their minds as to what the 'request' actually was.

Obviously, no one wanted to have their names in print as saying so, they were obviously scared to death. One vendor told me 'you need to sell Intel to survive you know'. Others named a vendor who did not show because of the pressure, and two or three said 'why do you think there are no motherboards here'? Underneath the happiness of the occasion, there was an undercurrent of uneasiness at best, and it was everywhere.

Intel's tactics were confirmed by several people not working at the show, but who would be familiar with how things worked. One even went so far as to point out that there is a current legal case in the EU in which Intel is a defendant for using monopoly tactics. I guess old habits die hard, or at least get a more palatable, harder to prove wrapping.

In that atmosphere, I congratulate all the vendors who did show up, you did a good thing. The way to end practices like this is to get them out in the open, not bury them. If no one knows, it only makes the bad guys stronger, and you weaker. µ

Mike Magee writes - Like Charlie, I was also at the Opteron launch. We didn't hunt in a pair, and I can confirm independently that I was also told this. Further, one vendor, Solectron, did apparently cave into the pressure, as we reported a week or so back. We have these vendors on the record, but we're not publishing their names for rather obvious reasons, given the above.

See Also
AMD pursues Intel antitrust case to Europe
AMD launch pictures
Microsoft and AMD jointly developed 64-bit chips
Opteron launch links


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