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AMD Leaves Lenovo Out of Antitrust Complaint

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Hardware

Advanced Micro Devices' 48-page antitrust complaint against rival Intel reads like a list of major players in the global PC industry, with one glaring exception: there's no mention of China's Lenovo Group.

But the omission of Lenovo from the complaint--apart from the references to IBM's PC business, which Lenovo acquired earlier this year--stands out because AMD has done slightly better in China than in other countries, and Lenovo is its most prominent customer there.

AMD executives were not immediately available to comment on why Lenovo was not mentioned in the complaint or whether it will be subpoenaed to provide details of its relationship with Intel in China. But the history of Lenovo in recent years demonstrates that AMD can win significant business from an important Intel customer under the right circumstances.

Lenovo started selling PCs in 1990 and introduced the first Pentium-based PC made by a Chinese company in 1993. By 1998, Lenovo had become Intel's biggest customer in China and relations between the two companies were strong.

However, Lenovo broke with its long-standing practice of selling only Intel-based computers in June 2004 and introduced a line of consumer PCs based on AMD's Athlon XP and Athlon64 processors. Over time, that has expanded to include a line of desktop PCs designed for corporate customers.

Lenovo's initial decision to use chips from AMD came during a difficult period for both companies. Lenovo opted to use chips from AMD because they were less expensive than processors from Intel, according to Lau. "It let them go after the low end of the market," she says.

Whether or not AMD will claim that Lenovo faced retaliation from Intel for selling AMD-based PCs is not clear. AMD's complaint makes no mention of any such incident. However, the complaint does allege that other major PC vendors, including Gateway and HP, faced threats of retaliation from Intel for doing business with AMD.

Lenovo declined to comment on how Intel executives reacted last year when informed that the company planned to introduce a line of AMD-based PCs.

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