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AMD Subpoenas Skype 418

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the who-didn't-see-this-coming dept.
I_am_Rambi writes "AMD has issued a subpoena to Skype in the battle of the anti-trust case against Intel. From the article: 'AMD is now focusing on a feature in Skype 2.0 that enables the ability to make 10-person conference calls only with Intel dual-core processors. Users with AMD dual-core chips or single-core chips are restricted to hosting five-person conference calls because only Intel's chips offer the performance necessary to host the 10-way call, according to Skype. [...] Skype's software is using a function called "GetCPUID" to permit 10-way conference calls only when that function detects an Intel dual-core processor on start-up.'"
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AMD Subpoenas Skype

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  • by mrhandstand (233183) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:33PM (#14830504) Journal
    Skype into this relationship? Why is this not a perfectly acceptable competitive advantage offered to a partner?

    Not trolling...whats the skinny on this issue?
    • by Azarael (896715) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:39PM (#14830562) Homepage
      IANAL, but I would guess that that is one of the things that AMD is looking to find out with their Subpoena. I think either Intel or Skype would be hard pressed to provide a valid reason why the limit is put in place. Imagine if the publisher a game certified by nVidia decided to limit the maximum resolution possible on ATI cards.
    • Let's say you go down to your local store and buy a bag of Doritos.
      Now let's say you go buy a 2 Liter of Coka Cola. Unbeknownst to you, the seasoning in the doritos reacts violently with Coke and produces sulfer, thus making you spew out the contents in your mouth due to the nasty taste.
      Now you find out you should have bought Pepsi, since it does not contain any ingredients that would produce that circumstance in the first place!!! So now you are limited to only buying Pepsi...

      Then you find out one day
      • Depends who put it there. If Doritos put it there, hey, its Doritos product, and it is a free market. The consumer will decide whether they want to consume doritos with an alternate beverage or consume another chip.

        If however Pepsi had some say in the design there are other issues...

        *THAT* is the question GP was asking and you completely missed...
        • PepsiCo owns Frito-Lay, who makes Doritos. I assume this is what the GrandParent was talking about.
        • Depends who put it there. If Doritos put it there, hey, its Doritos product, and it is a free market. The consumer will decide whether they want to consume doritos with an alternate beverage or consume another chip.

          If however Pepsi had some say in the design there are other issues...
          Twilight zone time:

          Doritos is a Frito-Lay product ... Pepsico owns Frito-Lay.

      • by shawnce (146129) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:52PM (#14830691) Homepage
        Dear Kookus,

        We at Pepsi Co. are looking to employ talented, capable, and visionary individuals like yourself. If you are interested in an exciting career with us please reply so we can setup a first round of interviews.

        Sincerely,

        The Man
        Pepsi Co.
    • I guess that's probably why they're subpoenaing them (i.e. to answer that exact question). It's very hard to see what's in this for Skype though. It's hard to claim it is a "business partnership" if it is one-way, and AMD can't get in on the action. Disclaimer: just read the username.

      You also need to look at what's best for the consumer here. Partership or not, if the consumer is losing out, then it's not good.

    • Skype into this relationship? Why is this not a perfectly acceptable competitive advantage offered to a partner?

      If Intel is shown to be a monopoly then this is pretty clearly trying to build an artificial barrier to entry and concievably runs afoul a number of antitrust laws in various jurisdictions.

    • Imagine if Intel paid Apple/Microsoft to artificially limit the performance of the next Mac OSX/MS Vista unless the computer is running the new Intel CPU.

      Why is this not a perfectly acceptable competitive advantage offered to a partner?
    • I think there is a blurry line drawn in the sand where fair business practice is separated from monopolistic and unfair business practice. AMD thinks
      Skype is walking the line or may have crossed over it. But I'm just some guy and thats just what I think.
    • Skype into this relationship? Why is this not a perfectly acceptable competitive advantage offered to a partner?

      You are right, Anti-competitive practices are perfectly acceptible in a free market. If, I want to bundle my stereo system with a certain type of car because that car company has paid me to do so or vice versa or has some other mutually beneficial deal, that is perfectly acceptible. But as companies approach having a dominant marketshare we have decided that it is not acceptible any longer becau
      • it seems to me that 'secret shoppers' walk the line of price fixing...
        • it seems to me that 'secret shoppers' walk the line of price fixing...

          Yes, prior collusion is no longer really needed for price fixing, as you can instantly see what your competitors are charging in many cases. So theoretically you could "walk up" the price together. But you still have to have a general sense of agreement not to undercut your competitors inflated prices. All it takes is one competitor with enough capacity or inventory and a desire to increase their marketshare to bring competitive pressu
    • Why is this not a perfectly acceptable competitive advantage offered to a partner?

      It is...... Except if your a monopoly, monopolies have to follow different rules. Intel has yet to be declared a monopoly (or to have violated anti-trust in some way), but this would clearly be deemed illigal if it was, This specific act though does help to show a pattern of abuse, each of which may be legal, but can be combined to form an anti-trust case.. Its all very tricky, but intel knowing they were being investigated fo
    • Intel abusing market power to (re)cement a monopoly, maybe? Deliberate hindering of competitors through shady deals with third parties? Punishing consumers by artificially limiting what they can do just because they didn't buy from the right vendor?
    • by BobPaul (710574) *
      From the article:
      A Skype executive declined to comment earlier this month when asked whether the company had tested the performance of its software on both Intel's and AMD's dual-core chips. An Intel representative confirmed that there are no instructions that specifically enhance the performance of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software like Skype's in Intel's dual-core chips. He also said that Skype's software is using a function called "GetCPUID" to permit 10-way conference calls only when that fun
  • As multiple people pointed out, there was no way that this was going to slip through. http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/13/201523 6/ [slashdot.org] Intel isn't helping their legal cause when they are waving a red flag waving 'we are anti-competative'.
  • And I thought the Intel compiler ignoring features of AMD chips when it knows full well how to use them was brazen . . . . . . .
    • not supporting or optimizing for your competitors is just fine, going out of your way to disrupt or disable their products is not.
  • I wonder how easy would it be to set up an environment variable for "GetCPUID" and have it return a different CPU-ID to the program? If that is possible, I'd like to know how and set my computer to return and INTEL CPU. Once done, I'd like try Skype out with my AMD machine.
    • But then your computer would fall over in a steaming heap as software attempted to use Intel specific instructions.

      I think it's probably easier to just patch the ID test in software that uses it.
    • That's basically how VM Ware works on Windows. It runs the code, but traps privileged instructions and handles them it's self (I realize this is a rough description). Using the same methods I don't see why you couldn't trap a CPUID instruction.

      That said, I think it would be much easier to just patch the executable to swap the instruction to get CPUID with a load register instruction or some such in it's place. The only question would be if the software checks it's checksum or has some other anti-tampering

      • 1: you can only trap an instruction if its trapable not all instructions are

        2: vmware and its ilk don't actually work by instruction trapping because the i386 architecture has lots of subtule differences between kernel mode and user mode that can't be eliminated by trapping techinques. IIRC vmware uses dynamic recompilation techniques on the kernel mode code and runs user mode code straight on the CPU.
    • Ok then then Ladies, first one to do it wins.....
  • about processor speed it could simply have a list of processor minimums that it checked against. Or allow the user to set the parameter much the way video clips let you pick "Broadband" or "56k modem".

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:37PM (#14830541)

    ...only Intel's chips offer the performance necessary to host the 10-way call, according to Skype.

    And every other piece of software on the shelf just has the requirements written on the box, and it's up to the user to make sure your system is up to spec. But for some reason, Skype, and only Skype, has to check your CPU's make. Not clockspeed, not memory, not cache or storage space but cpu manufacturer to run.

    They're gonna get nailed on this one. Hard. And they deserve it.

    • They're gonna get nailed on this one. Hard. And they deserve it.

      Well, AMD is certainly gonna try. And I wonder what the hell Intel is up to. From the outside, it appears that they handed AMD some massive smoking-gun evidence for their lawsuit, in exchange for a piece of nebulous marketing fluff that 99.9% of their potential customers won't care about. I don't see any way that Intel could come out ahead on this sort of thing, so... why the hell did they do it?
      • From the outside, it appears that they handed AMD some massive smoking-gun evidence for their lawsuit, in exchange for a piece of nebulous marketing fluff that 99.9% of their potential customers won't care about. I don't see any way that Intel could come out ahead on this sort of thing, so... why the hell did they do it?

        Maybe Intel also saw it as a bit marketing fluff that 99.9% of their potential customers won't care about.

        How anti-competitive is it if 99.9% of the market doesn't care and isn't really affe
    • If I want to write software that only works on a specific chipset, why can't I?

  • by aftk2 (556992) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:38PM (#14830551) Homepage Journal
    Apple, for failing to include AMD processors in their offerings, upon their switch to x86.
    • I think that's a different case. That decision could easily have been based on the chipsets available for Intel that included the Trusted Computing (or whatever the name is) features they desired. Also, isn't the switch also to do with the performance-per-watt of Intel, specifically of their very fine mobile offerings? Granted, their desktop processors are quite warm, but their are many other factors. I seriously doubt that AMD will pull Apple into the case based on their choice of Intel over AMD.
    • And why is Apple obligated to make AMD Macs?
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @04:39PM (#14830556) Journal
    Gee, artificially limiting your product to work best with a company under constant scrutiny for being an unfair monopoly. Doesn't skype have any lawyers?

    Then again it says a lot about skype that they even put in a hard limit in their software. Since hardware is improving all the time this will make your software quickly fall behind. It is like those software installers that check the platform string and refuse to install if it doesn't match their list. So you have to hack the game to work install on w2k3 (MS greatest gaming platform ever, would want it in a server room but runs games perfectly).

    Even if intel launches some 6hgz chip skype would still be limited to 10 callers. Even if you run it on a super computer, skype would still be limited by 10 callers.

    Oh well, pretty much everyone here on slashdot predicted this would end up in court.

    Limiting your online product to a segment of the market. Oh yeah, the bubble is back with a vengenance. Does their website insist you run IE as well?

    • So you have to hack the game to work install on w2k3

      Talk about a nuisance! Oftentimes I have to use Orca to hack the .msi file(s) and make the damn installer do its thing. And if you remember, in the beginning even DirectX refused to install on win2k3.
  • I wonder if the reaction would still be the same if it was AMD that was chosen by Skype for the 10-way call feature.
    • I wonder if the reaction would still be the same if it was AMD that was chosen by Skype for the 10-way call feature.

      I'm sure Intel would respond in similalr fassion. But the geek-public public wouldn't mind as much, heck some would probably be cheering them on. If a school bully picks fights with kids on a daily basis by kicking them in the nuts, how would you feel if kid #147 kicks hit in the nuts first?

      Intel has been throwing its weight around for years now to ensure its dominance. The Dell debacle com

      • AS opposed to those angels* the run AMD.

        Of course, I've been reading slashdot for so long, I remember when all the jokes were at AMD's expense.

        *by angels, I mean lying bastards who have released chips knowing full well applications with a wide user base would have problems.

  • After all, Intel has strong-armed virtually all the major PC manufacturers to feature Intel chips or face their wrath.

    Threats such as retroactively withdrawing rebates and removing future discounts on chip purchases have ensured that the major PC manufacturers in the US push Intel chips. To do otherwise would increase the cost of a given manufacturer's PCs to the point where the manufacturer couldn't be competitive.

    Illegal? I'm not sure, but I don't think so (IANAL). Immoral? Duh (IAAHB)!

    • "Threats such as retroactively withdrawing rebates and removing future discounts on chip purchases have ensured that the major PC manufacturers in the US push Intel chips. To do otherwise would increase the cost of a given manufacturer's PCs to the point where the manufacturer couldn't be competitive.

      Illegal? I'm not sure, but I don't think so (IANAL). Immoral? Duh (IAAHB)!"

      Threats such as retroactively withdrawing rebates and removing future discounts on Windows purchases have ensured that the major PC man
  • I wonder what the Mac users think about Macs now having Monopolistic Intel making the most important hardware component in their ideal computers.

    I'm obviously not a mac user. But I know that the Mac users made heavy use of evil monopoly mentality to stoke the fires against MS and Intel in the past. I just wonder if any Mac users feel a bit uneasy about supporting an evil monopoly now that Intel CPUs are the workhorse of every new Mac.

    It's an honest question. Will Mac users find a creative way to spin
    • Like many Mac users, I think it sucks [ath0.com]. Go troll elsewhere.
      • Wow... It must be difficult to care so much about something so trivial. How do you sleep at night?

        I'd say that 100% of Mac users wouldn't notice whether their OS was running on PPC, AMD, Intel, or a Dorito chip. So long as it works. The "Macintosh Experience" is about integration (between hardware components, and between hardware and software) and user-friendliness (mostly software). Not strange CPU cults.
    • Will Mac users find a creative way to spin it? Or will some of them now actaully admit that it's a mark against the Apple/Mac reputation and mentality?

      Ok, I'll bite. Apple has been tied to one or two CPU vendors in the past, so not much has changed. This time the "out" is much easier though. I imagine if Intel fails to deliver for Apple, then AMD is an easy switch.

      Apple needed special considerations and Intel's faltering CPU line needed the cache Apple brought. You'll note that not long after the Intel

      • You misquoted me. I was careful to make the distinction. I said, ". . . Intel making the most important hardware component. . ." and also ". . . Intel CPUs are the workhorse of every new Mac." I was even careful to call the CPU the workhorse and not the brain.

        I really like your point, though, about the x86 conversion effort paying off if Intel ever tries to jerk Apple around. AMD is an excellent processor and is not currently engaging in any monopolistic schemes like Intel seems to be. I just hope AMD re
    • Well, the reason that it was so easy to run OS X on x86 was because OS X was based on NeXT, which itself ran on four architectures, IIRC. So if Intel goes away, maybe they'll just move on to MIPS or Alpha or whatever. ;-)
    • I'll be glad to try to answer this. I have been a long time Mac fan, and I came back to Macs last year when I bought a 1.67 GHz PowerBook.

      My interpretation? I don't care. If I had a Windows computer, Intel would be making many of these decisions. With a new Mac, things are the same. While the independance of Apple was nice, it wasn't a big deal, and definiatly didn't outweight their CPU problems (the G5s were quite nice, but the laptops had gotten very sorry due to the old G4).

      But what difference does it

  • Skype should be ashamed of themselves. If anything, they should simply check CPU usage and warn against adding more callers when there isn't sufficient horsepower left in the tank for a good connection. To claim, however, that only Intel dual cores have the power to support twice as many calls is pure garbage!
  • ... whether AMD's lawyers hibernate during the winter? That might explain why this took so long, I have been waiting for this to happen since that deal was announced.
  • by cuijian (110696) * on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @05:02PM (#14830785)
    If Skype really needs extra horsepower for a 10-way audio conference it is impressively lame.

    I understand the real time encoding and decoding required for multiperson video is processor intensive but audio streams should be pretty light weight. iChat AV can support 10-way audio conferencing using the now ancient G3 processor. http://www.apple.com/ichat/ [apple.com]
    • iChat AV can support 10-way audio conferencing using the now ancient G3 processor.

      Not quite. Someone using a G3 can participate in a 10-way conference, but the more intensive task of mixing those 10 audio streams requires (according to the very page you linked to) a 1GHz G4, dual 800 MHz G4, any G5 or Intel Core.

      That Skype's requirements are so much higher is still a little curious, even with higher quality.
  • by LWATCDR (28044)
    Skype optimized and tested their code on Intel duel core CPUs. Maybe they compiled using the Intel compiler and their code will only support 10 users when running on an Intel CPU?
    Intel chips do tend to out perform AMD cpus on programs that are optimized for SSE3. It may be just laziness and not a plot.
    • There are lots of applications that perform differently on different processors. Processing 10+ audio streams on any semi-modern processor should work just fine. Even if it performs poorly, it is a reason to have a warning, error message or something like that. Blocking it based on the processor is just wrong.

      Thank god it is just Skype, and not an OS, or productivity suite, or a game.
    • by manno (848709)
      There is no way it takes all the power of a dual P4/Yohan to push 10 way calling, I'd feel prety confident in saying a single core athlon 3200, or p4 3.2 would easily handle 20 calls with ease. Sure it's anti competative for intel to do this, but it realy did this to force people to upgrade once again. Processors, even single core ones are so fast that typical home/office use could be easily done on a chip that's 4 years old. I got compliments on my trusty old p3 700 with Windows XP up until I replaced it l
    • by afidel (530433)
      Intel handed them a boatload of cash in exchange for this exclusing feature. That isn't speculation, it is fact.
  • Assuming intel is behind this, it would only be illegal if they were a monopoly. All of the recent numbers show that AMD is selling close to as many as intel is now. Historically intel has been a monopoly, but it doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
    • " Assuming intel is behind this, it would only be illegal if they were a monopoly." and they used the Monopoly to force Skype to use Intel only.

      If Skype decided they want to only deal with intel CPU's, then that is fine. Just like I can write a windows application and not get in trouble for it not running on Linux.
  • Intel and Skype worked together to produce code which would allow the sound processing to be done faster than it could otherwise on intels processors.

    I find it interesting though that after having contact with Intel, they chose to use the CPU ID to enable extra features, rather than a speed test, so fast machines could do 10, slow machines less than that, and have it purely based on the speed of the processor.

    If this continues, I'm sure AMD will end up providing an option to give out
    false CPUID info, simply
    • That's 'cause the extra features don't exist.

      Modern x86 processors are well documented. There's nothing a top of the line AMD won't do that a top of the line Intel will do (except hyperthreading, which isn't applicable, because they are specifically talking about Intel's new line of core processors, which aren't hyperthreaded). AMD's latest and greatest are SSE2 and SSE3 enabled, just like Intel's offerings. The only thing blocking 10 person skype on AMD is CPUID, not any processor specific features.
  • Skype isn't a monopoly. Intel isn't a monopoly.

    The more Skype adds stupid restrictions like this, the more it will lose market share.

    People should chill out, stop the lawsuits, and let free markets work. Free markets make dumb BS like this eventually go away.

  • If the whole thing is only relying on the return from an API call, just wait until the program gets modified by someone so the conditional jump becomes a JMP (or the API is hooked to pretend to be an Intel processor) and it works on any processor. If they are using architecture-specific assembly for the realtime encoding/decoding it may be a poorly implemented program, but they have a shred of a case. If it works fine on AMD X2s or other sufficiently fast processors, I'd say the cover is blown.
  • by m50d (797211) on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @05:36PM (#14831051) Homepage Journal
    AMD should set their CPUID to "GenuineIntel". It's for interoperability grounds - Intel have shown they will use it to try and damage the performance of programs on AMD machines - so there shouldn't be any trademark issue, and it would stop this kind of crap once and for all.
  • This seemed like an obvious thing for AMD to do in their case. A lot of people thought this was fishy when it was first announced, especially since AMD appears to be making a better product for less than Intel is charging. Skype arbitrarily picking Intel on a whim is one thing, but there's no real logic behind any reasoning people have come up with. Unless you factor money into it.

    With Skype being one of the leaders in VoIP and also a popular pick for podcasters, requiring Intel processors is an interest
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 01, 2006 @06:32PM (#14831435) Homepage Journal
    Processor usage for video/audio in a one-on-one convo in Skype ~85%

    Processor usage in a camfrog chat room handling up to 100 camera streams (101 including your own video stream) and a dedicated audio stream (half-duplex) ~30%

    Bear in mind that my Pentium 4 was one of the FIRST ever released, with a shameful 256KB of L2 cache (as opposed to the 512KB or 1 Meg in current-gen P4 processors.)

    So, I call bullshit on Skype. They just don't have a clue about optimization and streamlined code. I see their program getting larger and larger with each update. Camfrog gets smaller. Camfrog used to be 4 megs, now it's 3.4 megs, and they're improving with each version as well. I paid my $50 for the ability to view 100 cameras at the same time (depending upon my internet pipeline, of course) and I'll testify that while Camfrog has no conference call features (AS OF YET,) it far pounds Skype into the dirt, video, audio, and general speed. Skype starts lagging after a while, Camfrog has yet to really do that unless I'm running many other programs at the same time, but it does manage to keep up.

    *Uninstalls Skype from his computer*

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