Today's 20 Greatest Tech Battles

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AMD vs. Intel

AMD and Intel haven't been locked in a struggle for computer processor supremacy since the beginning of time – but it sure seems that way.

Intel, inventor of x86 microprocessors and Moore's Law, was founded in 1968, and competitor AMD was born the following year. The rivalry has been furious ever since, despite its lopsided nature.

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Even with recent gains, AMD holds only 12.1% of the global microprocessor market, compared with Intel's 80.6%, research firm iSupply Corp said in March 2010.

[See all 20 Tech Battles at Network World.]

Both companies are pushing the technology world into the age of multi-core processors for desktops and servers, but some of their most interesting battles have been fought in courtrooms rather than research labs.

In August 1991, AMD brought a $2 billion antitrust lawsuit against Intel, alleging "unlawful acts designed to secure and maintain a monopoly." The suit was settled in 1995 but more litigation followed, until November 2009, when Intel and AMD decided to settle all antitrust litigation and patent cross-license disputes between the companies. As part of the deal, Intel agreed to pay AMD $1.25 billion in damages and to adhere to a new set of business practices designed to increase competition.

But the settlement does not preclude court actions by other parties alleging that Intel has abused its market position, and there are plenty.

The Federal Trade Commission filed a formal antitrust lawsuit against Intel in December 2009, just one month after the settlement, alleging that Intel used illegal tactics such as threatening to increase prices, end technology collaborations and shut off supply and marketing support to manufacturers that purchased too many products from Intel's competitors.

Intel also faces an antitrust lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in November 2009, and it was assessed a $1.44 billion fine by European regulators in May 2009.

While Intel fights legal battles in both North America and Europe, AMD chief executive Dirk Meyer contends that the settlement with Intel will help AMD raise its market share immediately and become a more viable competitor in the long run.

In recent months, technology battles between Intel and AMD have focused on chips for personal computers, with the companies unveiling six-core desktop processors in March 2010. AMD has struggled in the laptop market, but it is attempting to bridge the power and performance gap between itself and Intel with new triple- and quad-core processors for mobile PCs introduced in May 2010.

While AMD's days of fighting court battles against Intel are over (for the time being), the chip makers' rivalry on the technology front shows no signs of slowing down.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

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