It looks like the other half of the "Wintel" monopoly is about to get the rug yanked out from underneath it as well. According to reports, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is preparing antitrust action against Intel Corporation, makers of the microprocessors used in 90% of the world's computers. The suit, which could be launched as early as Friday, will charge that Intel is illegal abusing its monopoly power in microprocessors by withholding hardware and CPU designs from customers that it is in disputes with. A later suit, which the FTC may bring by the Fall, will focus on Intel's practice of integrating features into its chipsets that were originally created by its competitors.

Sound familiar?

Though Intel has gotten FTC approval in the past for its purchases of Chips & Technologies and the Digital semiconductor business, the company suffered a legal defeat last month when a federal judge ruled that it could not withhold production information and hardware from Intergraph. Intel and Intergraph were involved in a patent dispute at the time. Interestingly, Intel and Digital were also involved in a patent dispute when the two companies settled, giving Intel the Digital semiconductor business.

The FTC was responsible for the original probe of Microsoft, which occurred in the early 1990's. Eventually, the group deadlocked over whether to pursue legal action, so it took the unprecedented step of moving the investigation over to the Justice Department, which has twice brought charges against Microsoft