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NVidia, AMD Subpoenaed In Antitrust Investigation

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the business-of-making-shinies dept.

Graphics 132

mustardayonnaise writes "CNN Money is reporting that graphics chipmakers Nvidia and AMD (who recently acquired NVidia rival ATI) said Friday that they received subpoenas from the US Department of Justice as part of a probe into potential antitrust violations involving graphics processing units and cards. Each company controls about 25% of the entire graphics chip market. According to the article, Intel, who makes their own fair share of graphics chipsets, has yet to be included in the investigation."

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132 comments

by that token (4, Insightful)

eneville (745111) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071602)

well, if this is happening, why isn't intel/amd being questioned about their control over pc chips?

Re:by that token (3, Informative)

hirschma (187820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071690)

You mean, this [eweek.com] ?

Re:by that token (3, Interesting)

rwven (663186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072992)

That's not what the parent meant... He meant "why isn't the goverment going after AMD *and* Intel just like they're going after AMD *and* NVIDIA."

This is "gov't vs. business," not "business vs business" like the current AMD and Intel case.

Also investigate MS XBox / FOSS driver issues (3, Interesting)

dsginter (104154) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072212)

Is is just a coincidence that both Nvidia and ATI were each awarded Xbox contracts (Nvidia = Xbox, ATI = Xbox 360)? Perhaps there was some behind the scenes deals to thwart the development of FOSS graphics drivers.

With the top two graphics chip companies controlling the majority of the market, this could have happened. Perhaps the "patented code" in the drivers that prevents them from opening the source is Microsoft-owned?

I know that it will never happen, but it would be nice to bring it up just in case someone is listening.

Re:Also investigate MS XBox / FOSS driver issues (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072434)

Is is just a coincidence that both Nvidia and ATI were each awarded Xbox contracts (Nvidia = Xbox, ATI = Xbox 360)? Perhaps there was some behind the scenes deals to thwart the development of FOSS graphics drivers.

Or maybe it's just as you say and those are the top two graphics companies and MS wanted the best.

It's like the "Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence" corallary to Occam's razor except more like "never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by good business decisions."

Re:Also investigate MS XBox / FOSS driver issues (1)

odourpreventer (898853) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073464)

Problem is, { malice == good business decision } seems to be true a little too often.

Re:Also investigate MS XBox / FOSS driver issues (1, Flamebait)

Osty (16825) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072502)

Is is just a coincidence that both Nvidia and ATI were each awarded Xbox contracts (Nvidia = Xbox, ATI = Xbox 360)? Perhaps there was some behind the scenes deals to thwart the development of FOSS graphics drivers.

Right, because the motivation couldn't have been wanting to get a top-notch GPU at an affordable price from a company that knows how to build GPUs successfully. Nope, it was just one more salvo in Microsoft's covert war against FOSS.

I'm sure the switch to ATI chips in the 360 from nVidia chips in the Xbox had nothing to do with nVidia wanting more of the pie than Microsoft was willing to give while ATI was willing to sell their IP so that Microsoft can do what they like with it in the future (such as integrating it into a 360-on-a-chip at some point in the future, a problem Sony's going to have down the road when they try to build a slimline PSThree and find out that they can't merge chips due to nVidia's licensing agreement ...). Instead, I'm 100% positive Microsoft decided to switch to ATI just so they could spread around their patents to foil FOSS development.

With the top two graphics chip companies controlling the majority of the market, this could have happened. Perhaps the "patented code" in the drivers that prevents them from opening the source is Microsoft-owned?

It's surely a possibility, considering that Microsoft, nVidia, ATI, and others all collaborate on the design and development of DirectX features (since many features are useless without hardware support behind them). However, it's more realistic that nVidia and ATI have their own proprietary IP and patents that could severely hurt their business if competitors got their hands on them. For example, how do you think it's possible for nVidia and ATI to get performance increases from several-year-old GPUs with nothing more than a driver update? Oh, wait, conspiracy theory: obviously nVidia and ATI intentionally hinder the performance of their GPUs so that they can slowly trickle out driver updates that will add incremental performance increases. For free. Because that makes sense.

I know that it will never happen, but it would be nice to bring it up just in case someone is listening.

If you installed your tinfoil hat properly you wouldn't have to worry about people listening to your thoughts ...

Re:Also investigate MS XBox / FOSS driver issues (3, Funny)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072636)

I'm probably one of the bigger tin-foil-hat-wearers around here when it comes to Microsoft, and not even I would believe something like that. You're just flat-out crazy, buddy.

Re:Also investigate MS XBox / FOSS driver issues (1)

bazald (886779) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072720)

I believe the primary motivation for the XBox switch from NVidia to ATI in the 360 generation is because NVidia refused to renegotiate the contract with Microsoft as production costs for the GPUs dropped. Microsoft, having only just entered the hardware arena, lacked the foresight to account for dropping production costs of the GPU in the original contract. It is just Microsoft screwing NVidia one more time after the GeForce FX (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia#Shortcomings_o f_FX_series [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:by that token (1)

AT Attorney (1034516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074504)

They are. AMD and a class of consumers are sueing Intel now in a big antitrust case for monopolizing the x86 microprocessor market. Huge case. I am one of the attorneys representing consumers. I am also looking for buyers of GPIs from Nvidia or AMD to find out their experience in pricing. Do you know any?

Linux whining ahead (0, Offtopic)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071660)

Antitrust? No kidding. ATI doesn't make Linux drivers that work, and won't release the source code last I checked. They're pretty much the reason I couldn't move to Linux earlier, or I'd lose most of the function of my TV graphics card. But I guess the free market lets them lock up their niche since the competitors aren't that much better. Why can't they share the love with OSes other than Windows? It just doesn't make sense to limit your market unless you're being paid off.

Maybe I shouldn't attribute to malice, what can be explained by ignorance though?

Re:Linux whining ahead (3, Insightful)

MrBulwark (862510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071778)

My guess would be that the cost to develop working drivers would outweigh the profits that they would see from increased Linux user base. By the conspiracy idea is a good one too ;)

Re:Linux whining ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17076280)

They should be taken to court for not providing decent linux drivers. i'm kinda pissed that i have an ati graphics card. >: |

Intel Correction (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071698)

Intel, who makes their own fair share of graphics chipsets, has yet to be included in the investigation.

From TFA: "To my knowledge, we haven't gotten a subpoena ourselves ... but I'm not 100 percent certain," said Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy, adding he was checking with company lawyers to confirm.

You know, as an investor, I'd rather go with the company that has been subpoened over the one that can't quite be sure!

Re:Intel Correction (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071786)

By that (completely specious) logic, you should be asking Intel's legal department about the company's processor roadmap.

Re:Intel Correction (1)

Durrok (912509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071978)

By that (completely specious) logic, you should be asking Intel's legal department about the company's processor roadmap.

Your comparison is crap. He's the spokesman for the company... he should be the second guy to know about these things.

Re:Intel Correction (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074828)

Okay, but how does he know they haven't been subpoenaed? Obviously, as a spokes person, someone should tell him if they _have_ been, but the lack of anyone telling him does not mean they haven't been. So he has to check to be 100% sure. This seems normal to me...

Re:Intel Correction (2, Insightful)

Azarael (896715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072068)

I would think that being aware of a subpoena referring to anti-trust litigation is well within the the responsibilities of a PR dept. of a large corporation.

Re:Intel Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17074818)

Not if the subpoenas were served within the last day, and they caught him before he had a chance to be briefed on it. In this age of instance news, it's not unusual for reporters to be calling for reactions well before information makes its way through the internal communications channels.

Re:Intel Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17073932)

By that (completely specious) logic, you should be asking Intel's legal department about the company's processor roadmap.

Knowing Intel... those are absolutely the right people to be asking. Either them or the MPAA/RIAA>

priorities? WTF? (5, Insightful)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071704)

CNN Money is reporting that graphics chipmakers Nvidia and AMD (who recently acquired NVidia rival ATI) said Friday that they received subpoenas from the US Department of Justice as part of a probe into potential antitrust violations involving graphics processing units and cards. Each company controls about 25% of the entire graphics chip market.

Meanwhile, the RIAA, who has a stranglehold over the music industry, gets to drive their truckloads of money straight to the bank.

Re:priorities? WTF? (3, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071826)

Please mod whoever said that is off topic as "stupid"

Honestly, it's a very good point, why are two agressively competative companies, having half the market share being examined for antitrust, while the RIAA fatcats, who are obviously a TRUSTworthy consortium not?

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

dj961 (660026) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072204)

Are they competitive? Last time I checked you could only buy an nvidia or ati pcie card. So while there are plenty of intel intergrated graphics out there, gaming is controlled by two corporations that are "deadlocked" with no outside competition.

Re:priorities? WTF? (3, Insightful)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072380)

They are highly competitive against each other. they are only deadlocked because of their competition, if one just sat back they would soon see their asses handed to them.

Antitrust issues come in when the consumer is getting screwed. in the case of video cards you may only have 2 major options, however they are constantly trying to out innovate the other in order to gain some market share (and not fall behind) defiantly a good situation for the consumer.

there are many monopolies in industries, however if the consumer isnt being adversely affected then the issue isnt raised near as much

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072708)

That's inaccurate to say the least. The majority of ATI/nVidia based video graphics cards are produced by 3rd parties, so obviously the market for video cards is healthy(maybe too competetive, I hear the margins are razor thin).

If you are speaking of the graphics chips themselves, there is obviously competition. Both companies are enduring and adapting to a visciously short product revision cycle, where every couple months both companies release revamped versions of their graphics chips. This has had an incredibly positive effect on the market for software utilizing ever-more complex 3D graphics, as well as keeping the graphics card manufacturers afloat.

Just yesterday I picked up a new nVidia-based graphics card from Fred Meyers(Kroger for you east-coasters) for $75. Just 3 years ago I doubt I could find similar performance without spending $500 or maybe much more.

If you are speaking purely of the graphics chips, than I say that is because of the incredible cost in starting any new ventures in this industry. The barrier to entry in both the graphics chips market as well as the CPU market is extremely high. This is because any new competitor would need to release an intial product that is competitive with existing technology; yet they're starting 10 years late. nVidia and ATI are both rolling with a long history of previous generations of products with which they have refined not only their products, but their product development system.

I would bet a lot of money that the lack of new 3D chip makers is due to the high cost of entering this market, not to any illegal anti-competitive action.

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073184)

[quote]Just yesterday I picked up a new nVidia-based graphics card from Fred Meyers(Kroger for you east-coasters) for $75.[/quote]

Ok, there's not many of them over here in SC, but last I checked Kroger was a grocery store. I don't know about you but I'd prefer to buy my graphics cards and my produce from different locations.

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

rvw14 (733613) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073572)

They have a grocery section in the store. SuperWalmart is a good comparison.

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

dj961 (660026) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073338)

Both companies are enduring and adapting to a visciously short product revision cycle, where every couple months both companies release revamped versions of their graphics chips. This has had an incredibly positive effect on the market for software utilizing ever-more complex 3D graphics, as well as keeping the graphics card manufacturers afloat.
My point exactly, neither company is competing with the other, they are both releasing nearly the same chips(performance wise) and nearly the same rate. If the car market worked the same way, you'd see the same amount of ford/gm/toyota cars on the road.

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

bumptehjambox (886036) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071836)

Meanwhile, the RIAA, who has a stranglehold over the music industry, gets to drive their truckloads of money straight to the bank.

They're not subjected to the same laws as companies.

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

lessthanjakejohn (766177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072132)

So what is the distinction given to the RIAA if they aren't a company...

Re:priorities? WTF? (1)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072534)

There are technically a non company organization (non profit i believe) acting on behest of the members.

the labels tell the RIAA what to do, not the other way around.

Re:priorities? WTF? (2, Funny)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072136)

Meanwhile, the RIAA, who has a stranglehold over the music industry, gets to drive their truckloads of money straight to the bank.

They're not subjected to the same laws as companies.

Maybe ATI and NVidia should for the GCIAA (Graphics Chip Industry Association of America). That way, they could be just like the RIAA and MPAA and be completely above the law.

Re:priorities? WTF? (4, Insightful)

Darth (29071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072228)

the RIAA is made up of companies. it exists to represent the major companies' common interests.

In the oligopoly of the music industry, the RIAA is the cartel that allows the major players to exert monopoly control on the market.

The fact that the RIAA itself is not a company should not be sufficient to protect its existance and protect its members from antitrust prosecutions.

Re:priorities? WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17073714)

Isn't there a law on the books at the federal level that makes cartels illegal? I could be wrong but I thought that was why no employee of Debeers above a certain level is not allowed to travel to the US or it's territories for fear of being arrested.

Re:priorities? WTF? (2, Funny)

MadUndergrad (950779) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072468)

Oh please, we all know the RIAA doesn't have truckloads of money heading to the bank. They use a serious of tubes! Sometimes, they get clogged.

Re:priorities? WTF? (3, Funny)

tehSpork (1000190) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073044)

And that, boys and girls, is why pirating music isn't so bad after all. You wouldn't want the RIAA's tubes to get clogged with all your money, would you?

Comparisons to RIAA is silly ... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072588)

"CNN Money is reporting that graphics chipmakers Nvidia and AMD (who recently acquired NVidia rival ATI) said Friday that they received subpoenas from the US Department of Justice as part of a probe into potential antitrust violations involving graphics processing units and cards. Each company controls about 25% of the entire graphics chip market."

Meanwhile, the RIAA, who has a stranglehold over the music industry, gets to drive their truckloads of money straight to the bank.


To make a video chipset you need millions of dollars. You can make music and market it worldwide with a guitar, a computer, and an internet connection.

Interesting... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071718)

Maybe NVidia and ATI need to bring 3Dfx back as a straw man to claim that there's no anti-trust issues. They could bring back S3 but people would fall down laughing. The days when graphic chips truly sucks are long gone.

OMG They are the only two companies... (3, Funny)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071734)

that are making gaming graphics cards that are actually really useful - their great cards are making it impossible for competators to compete with their lackluster cards! It must be a case worth of an antitrust suit!

Re:OMG They are the only two companies... (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071800)

It's the SCO business plan: if you can't compete, litigate!

Re:OMG They are the only two companies... (1)

bumptehjambox (886036) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071908)

Now those are some simple SCOnomics that even I can understand. Best part is, there is no risk! No repercussions! And if at first you don't suceed- keep trying!

Re:OMG They are the only two companies... (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072768)

The interesting thing here would be to find out where the campaign financiers are. If I was to try to list a few 'top picks' that the government should be investigating, NVidia and ATI would not be on the list at all. My guess is that someone wants to tie up these two companies in a big legal mess forcing blow millions of dollars on research/lawyers so that something else can happen (or not happen). Something about this doesn't smell right.

Re:OMG They are the only two companies... (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072902)

I know... it's sarcasm, but you didn't mark it up that way specifically.

But these kind of situations are most likely built on patents (licensing, trading, whatever) as a means to lock out competitors. This is obviously not what the patent system is supposed to be used for.

I'm certain there are a multitude of patents related to the implementation of OpenGL, for example. It would be my guess that the costs for implementing cards that would otherwise violate these patents would cost more than they could sell them for per unit. To me, that would spell "new-comers not welcome." Is that Antitrust? I don't know... that's for the judges to decide. But from where I sit, this is yet another shining example of how patents damage industries more than they help.

Re:OMG They are the only two companies... (1)

Jerry Coffin (824726) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074450)

I'm afraid you're missing the point of anti-trust suits.

To the US government, it's more a case of: look, there are two companies making billions of dollars, and they hardly contribute anything to lobbying or campaigns! It must be a case worthy of an anti-trust suit!

Seriously, consider Microsoft's political contributions before and after they started being hit with anti-trust suits. It sure looks to me like their practices being officially approved was based more on contributions than on any actual change in how they do business.

This is why Antitrust laws need to be repealed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17071844)

How long is it going to be before they have an anti-trust lawsuit against Mc Choke 'N' Puke and Cholesterol King for not serving food from other restaurants or giving the other restaurants their recipes?

Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (4, Insightful)

darkwhite (139802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071850)

Ah, so the DOJ is perfectly happy with multibillion-dollar competition-free contracts for "rebuilding Iraq" and blatantly monopolistic behavior by telecom providers, they think allowing Microsoft to racketeer OEMs into forcing customers to buy Windows with every machine they sell is absolutely fine, and of course they won't even dare to think about prosecuting other branches of their own government for numerous violations of the Constitution and war crimes, but when two companies, by persistently competing with each other and achieving near-perfect parity for long periods of time, create one of the most staggeringly cutthroat markets on the planet, they must of course be investigated.

Good job, DOJ!

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072312)

Well since there is no mention of what is actually alleged to be the problem, I can't really say whether or not this investigation has any merit. Certainly neither company has a monopoly, so the only thing I can think of is that the DOJ suspects some kind of collusion (the 'trust' in 'anti-trust' refers to multiple organizations agreeing to lock out competitors, not just individual monopolies).

Frankly I'm not going to assume anything. Yeah, the graphics card market is competitive and NVidia and ATI have done a very nice job of leapfrogging each other over and over into the stratospheres of graphics performance, and I hope that doesn't change. However if they are using illegal business tactics to ensure it doesn't become a 3-way race, then that has to stop. Kinda like when Rambus (*spits*) turned around and sued the Dramurai, who it turned out were colluding to control prices and lock out Rambus (*spits*).

Of course I'd rather they spent their time worrying about all the other things, but I'm sure it's not an either-or proposition, and again we're operating under a dearth of facts. Though I'll admit that unlike anti-trust action against Microsoft and Intel, I'm not already aware of shady business practices on the part of these two companies that would warrant it.

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (1)

fucksl4shd0t (630000) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074438)

Has it occured to anybody yet that the DOJ might be preparing to go after Intel, and they've subpoenaed AMD and Nvidia as the other two CPU-makers? If AMD + Nvidia have 25% of the GPU market and intel the other 75%, then it seems to me that AMD and NVidia have information that would be needed in an investigation of Intel. So whether or not it's about CPU or GPU, it could easily be about Intel. (Don't forget NVidia makes CPUs too)

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (1)

SEAL (88488) | more than 7 years ago | (#17075232)

However if they are using illegal business tactics to ensure it doesn't become a 3-way race, then that has to stop.

I would be more suspicious of them using illegal business tactics to inflate prices, rather than to obstruct a 3rd party. Have you checked prices on high end 3D cards lately? Plus, there are no viable competitors in the consumer 3D arena right now, at least not from a performance standpoint.

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072420)

The antitrust division of the DOJ doesn't handle fraud cases like that...

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17072456)

so the DOJ is perfectly happy with multibillion-dollar competition-free contracts

I won't try to say that companies don't try to find ways around the system but you do realize that the companies that can compete for some of the larger contracts have to follow strict rules that generally don't apply to most companies. The larger companies are very regulated (required training subjects for employees, policies to follow government imposed business practices, audits, requirements to subcontract percentages of contracts to minority or small businesses, etc...), well beyond that of most companies. Government contracts also require "past performance" clauses as well as price information, but not at the risk of poor performance (yes, I know performance can fail but the idea is to reduce this). Government organizations may also hold competition for the privilege of being on a list of approved companies for a period of time to keep from having to go through a full bid process too. This doesn't mean that companies get a "free ride" to contracts but it does cut some of the cost of competing for every single contract available from a government agency.

Mij

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (1)

darkwhite (139802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074064)

Good point. But when the god damn vice president of the most powerful country of the world is the biggest fucking walking conflict of interest on the planet [wikipedia.org] , don't you think we're a little past discussing best practices and into the realm of the criminal?

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17075208)

As for the conflict of interest, apparently the Wiki page on Cheney [wikipedia.org] had this to say:

Cheney resigned as CEO of Halliburton on July 25, 2000, and put all of his corporate shares into a blind trust. As part of his deferred compensation agreements with Halliburton contractually arranged prior to Cheney becoming Vice President, Cheney's public financial disclosure sheets filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics showed he received $162,392 in 2002 and $205,298 in 2001.[citation needed] Upon his nomination as a Vice Presidential candidate, Cheney purchased an annuity that would guarantee his deferred payments regardless of the company's performance.[citation needed] He argued that this step removed any conflict of interest. Cheney's net worth, estimated to be between $30 million and $100 million, is largely derived from his post at Halliburton.[citation needed]
In 2005, the Cheneys reported their gross income as nearly $8.82 million. This was largely the result of exercising Halliburton stock options that had been set aside in 2001 with the Gift Trust Agreement. The Cheneys donated just under $6.87 million to charity from the stock options and royalties from Mrs. Cheney's books.


I don't know if this is acceptable or not. I couldn't find much non-political information on Clinton to see if he had anything similar. Apparently Cheney was able to argue that the steps he took were acceptable, although I agree that it seems suspicious. Can you think of any companies other than Halliburton who would be capable of an overall contract like that for the Iraq rebuilding?

Mij

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072590)

by persistently competing with each other and achieving near-perfect parity for long periods of time

That's the problem. That's terribly unlikely unless there is some kind of collusion going on.

But your logic of MS="evil" monopoly and AMD+Nvidia="good" monopoly... well, I guess there is no logic.

Re:Glad the DOJ has their priorities straight (1)

Neil Hodges (960909) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073190)

But your logic of MS="evil" monopoly and AMD+Nvidia="good" monopoly... well, I guess there is no logic.

You do realize that with two companies controlling the market, it's called a "duopoly," correct?

I believe that the parent isn't saying that the fact they're basically a duopoly isn't bad, but what they're trying to do to rid of their competitor via 'bending' the laws is bad.

Huh? (3, Insightful)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071870)

I don't get it...what is the DOJ's angle here? There is real competition in the graphics card market, more so then the processor market and definately more then say...the operating system market.

Why are they going after these guys anyway?

Re:Huh? (2, Interesting)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072200)

I don't get it...what is the DOJ's angle here? There is real competition in the graphics card market, more so then the processor market and definately more then say...the operating system market.
 
Why are they going after these guys anyway?
Probably they didn't contribute enough money to the Bush re-election campaign.

Re:Huh? (1)

Life2Short (593815) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072490)

Just because there are 2 companies with competing products doesn't mean that they don't collude on price fixing, etc. Ever hear of a firm called Archer Daniels Midland? They have lots of competitors worldwide. In the mid/late 1990s they were found guilty of price fixing along with their global "competitors." Just Google "ADM price fixing" for the whole story. Also, there's a great segment on "This American Life" about the executive that helped nail ADM. It's a very twisted tale about how this fellow was embezzling from ADM but was making up industrial espionage stories to cover his tracks. He called the FBI to look for the nonexistant corporate spy. Along with his wife he panics and decides to collect evidence for the government against ADM, hoping it will focus attention away from him. According to FBI agents, the ADM exec was a natural at collecting evidence, geting other execs to say stuff on tape, and cool as a cucumber. You really should track down the "This American Life" episode that tells the story at thislife.org.

Re:Huh? (1)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072984)

Some one suggested on another forum this might be the case. It seems plausible actually, now that I think about it. We've only seen video card prices rise in recent history, even on the high end. Of course intel probably wouldn't have been involved, they don't have any video offerings that are highend.

Re:Huh? (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#17076332)

There is real competition in the graphics card market, more so then the processor market and definately more then say...the operating system market.

ATI & Nvidia having similar marketshare does not equal "real competition". The fact that it's not one company with 99% of the market does not mean that it's some kind of utopia.

Well, it's a pretty crooked market (5, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17071956)

I worked for a company that made 3D chips. We had a pretty good component. Not astoundingly fast, but a competitive mid-range component more than adequate for the current crop of games. Faster and cheaper than the GeForce 2 when that was still considered a competitive card.

So, the sales people went to various board manufacturers, and said "Do you want to buy our chip". The board manufacturers said Gosh. That's perfect for our mid-range market. We'd love to. Our sales people went home happy. nVidia's sales people said "Do you want us to keep selling you our chips?" The board manufacturers sid "Yes, of course we do". nVidia said "well, don't buy chips from that other upstart company".

Apart from the huge board manufacturers who would be able to seriously dent nVidia's sales, none of them were interested in us any more.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17072100)

Xgi? I can't remember if Xgi even had a product ready to ship around the GF2, but they're the only recent 3D GFX company I can think of who would fit the bill..

PowerVR (1)

hirschma (187820) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072640)

See here [wikipedia.org] . The article specifically mentions the GF2 as a competitor. It was a very good chip for the time and the price.

Overrated (1)

Nazmun (590998) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072836)

I remember benchmarks for the powervr... In some cases it was competitive but it lackded features like hardware T&L and framerates and benchmark were lower then the radeon/geforce of the time because of it.

Those were the primary reasons i avoided their Kyro line of graphics cards for the pc. The performance was lacking overall when you put hardware lighting into consideration.

Re:Overrated (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073352)

It did depend somewhat on the game, and the resolution. T&L at the time wasn't all that well supported for DirectX games. If you used lightmaps instead of vertex lighting, then the Kyro would have done well because it was very efficient at texturing. Anything that did a lot of overdraw and blending worked very well, and the way the texturing unit worked, there was a significant drop in improvement in a geForce if you went to a fifth texture stage since that required multipass. Granted, this is kind of academic since nobody would that, but we did make a Quake level that did this and a few other tricks, and the Kyro outperformed a GF2 GTS.

As our first chip in the line, it had a few problems. We didn't quite get the clockspeeds we wanted. I think we were 10-20% off our target speed, but really the problem was that the Kyro was almost a year later than it should have been. Releasing a DX7 part shortly after DX8 was released was a bad idea. In hindsight, we could have done things differently. I think if they'd stuck with it, it would have been a pretty successful line of chips.

Re:Overrated (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074324)

Let me tell you about *my* experience with Imagination Technologies and PowerVR. I (by which I mean as head of the small company I was running at the time) was a big fan of the architecture and had planned on using it and its successors for PC video cards. We also planned what could really only be described as Dreamcast 2 (using an SH-5). There was much talk back and forth and things looked wonderful. Then those larger companies you spoke of previously got interested and I was cut out. I found out by having correspondance halted and getting to read the big announcements on the IT homepage. Several months later, after it was obvious to everyone that those deals had fallen through, Metcalfe contacted me again and tried to ressurrect the deal. Being the last resort for that product line made me really anxious to continue the relationship. Oh, wait...

Re:Overrated (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074816)

I worked for STMicro. Not PowerVR. So we were the big company that shoved you out of the way. Not the smaller company that froze you out.

Re:Overrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17075268)

Hmm. Thats sounds a bit snarky. Should probably have added a smily there.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (3, Interesting)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072292)

"well, don't buy chips from that other upstart company".

Frankly, as a consumer, I wouldn't buy a graphics card from an upstart (or a board that has built in graphics from an upstart). It's a chicken-egg problem.

Many folks got stuck with 3d hardware cards and no company and/or no supported drivers... with Nvidia (dunno about ATI), you can take their TNT2 card and still get it to work with their -current- drivers (even on Linux!). Had it been some unknown-brand card, you might not even get X to come up (and have to use Windows in VGA mode).

So yeah... competition sucks. What a small corp can do is compete on openness. Sure, I'd buy some unknown brand if it follows some open standard, has open source drivers, and works with Linux out of the box. In fact, that's the only way I see how a small corp can get ahead in this business.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072968)

Frankly, as a consumer, I wouldn't buy a graphics card from an upstart (or a board that has built in graphics from an upstart). It's a chicken-egg problem.

Well, *you* might not, but someone else might. However, that someone else didn't have the opportunity to do so (that is, if the story is true).

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072982)

Many folks got stuck with 3d hardware cards and no company and/or no supported drivers...

I'm using Linux and FreeBSD. Nvidia's out-of-date crippleware drivers don't count as "supported". The non-existant ATI drivers even less so.

I don't agree with this anti-trust move, but that doesn't mean I think NVidia/AMD are above criticism.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17073244)

The TNT2 was an ATI card, not nVidia.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17073510)

In that case it's quite a card since it works perfectly with nvidia-glx-legacy.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (2, Interesting)

mysteryvortex (854738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17075562)

you can take their TNT2 card and still get it to work with their -current- drivers (even on Linux!)

You may want to take a look at Nvidia's list of currently supported cards. [nvidia.com] Let me know if you see the TNT2 on there. In fact, this Gentoo Nvidia guide [gentoo.org] clearly shows the TNT2 in their "list of unsupported legacy video cards."

Re:Mod Parent Informative (3, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072322)

The number of times this particular order of events happens in the tech world qualifies it as Standard Operating Procedure.

I didn't RTFA, I'm more interested to hear the chain of events that got the DOJ started on this particular issue. As I recall, it was intense lobbying in DC by Microsoft's competitors that finally got them into trouble.

Which competitor(s) got the DOJ started on this one? Microsoft? Intel? ?

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072862)

MS did the same thing with BeOS...

"If you want to continue selling Windows machines, youll forget about this little BeOS thing"

You'll have to forgive me (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073292)

If I'm a little skeptical that is all that prevented you from coming to market. See, there have been (and are) other companies that try to compete with nVidia and ATi. Matrox, S3, XGI, and Bitboys have all tried at one time or another to directly compete in the performance market. In every case the basic problem has been the same: They failed to deliver on their claims. Bitboys failed to deliver at all. They kept talking up this awesome accelerator but nobody ever actually saw the thing in final silicon. The rest mainly failed to deliver on performance claims. I remember how talked up the XGI Volarios were and then when they hit the market they couldn't compete. Likewise the Matrox G400 had nifty features, but fell flat performance wise. Then, of course, there's the promising features that didn't work. XGI and Matrox were big on that. Their drivers were buggy or a feature would just plan not work as advertised.

So it's not like nobody has been able to release a card to attempt to compete with nVidia and ATi, it's that when it happen, the card is, well, second rate.

Re:You'll have to forgive me (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073592)

It wasn't exactly a performance chip, but did compete with nVidias more profitable, older chips. And yes, there were other problems. It was a reasonably successful chip, but we could only really sell to Hercules.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073626)

Why didnt your company tried to build their own boards ? Or pair-up with a smaller board manufacturer company that did not buy from nVidia.

I mean the board's brand name is nothing, so they probably could outsource the board building and packaging to some random chinese company bypassing nVidia's radar.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073786)

Why didnt your company tried to build their own boards ?

Not sure. Might have been the corporate policy of not competing with our customers. If it was our only product we would have had to do this. But this was just the graphics division of a huge larger company. If they wanted to, they could have given the chips away and competed in the same underhand way as nVidia. But they didn't want to.

Or pair-up with a smaller board manufacturer company that did not buy from nVidia.

You'd be surprised just how few of these exist. I think just about any PC hardware company with any interest in making graphics cards was already buying from nVidia.

Re:Well, it's a pretty crooked market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17076246)

So THAT'S what happened to the Verite chipsets!

Well... (1)

Codename46 (889058) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072196)

I guess thats one advantage VIA and Cyrix have with their crappy processors: You don't get bothered by the Feds.

What are they wasting our tax dollars on now? (2, Insightful)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 7 years ago | (#17072618)

I think there's great competition and I doubt any sort of fixing of price has been happening. One has to wonder the motivation behind this. Why are they spending our tax dollars when it is obvious that we have great competition, lots of manufacturers, great prices, lots of power, enormous competition with integrated chipsets, etc.

Any word on why this is happening or are we just funding some Justice Dept's employee's rise to celebrity?

Re:What are they wasting our tax dollars on now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17073346)

Could be the DOJ is doing Intel's dirty work, tired of their money going to AMD, ATI, and NVDA... Just a thought... Intel is a Dow 30 company and it seems they get some sort of special treatment sometimes...

What does it feel like (2, Funny)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 7 years ago | (#17073470)

to really hate somebody's guts, to spend your whole life trying to beat them, then in the end some clown says you're gay and sleeping together?

Antitrust Lawyer Investigating (0, Troll)

AT Attorney (1034516) | more than 7 years ago | (#17074584)

I am an antitrust attorney in California investigating this case against Nvidia and AMD. If you purchased graphics processing units from either of these companies, then you may have a claim. I am interested in learning your experience with the pricing of these GPUs and finding out if consumers are entitled to a refund. Email me at jhartley@rdblaw.com Jason
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