Nvidia’s program to get OEMs like Origin PC to dump AMD called “Tier 0”

Exclusive: Seems awfully antitrusty from this point of view

Nvidia World logoRemember how Nvidia bribed Origin PC not to carry AMD products and put out press releases to trash AMD GPUs? We have more details now from additional sources, and they seem like serious antitrust material from our quick phone call to a local attorney.

Sources high up at Nvidia say that the program that bribed Origin PC to drop AMD products and publicly badmouth the company, its products, and anything related is called “Tier 0”. The plan was hatched by Nvidia sales and it has a few bits to it. Tier 0 partners have to drop competitive products, AMD in this case, publicly badmouth AMD, and put out press releases/bang the publicity drum on the subject. The idea is to make it look like a grassroots problem that high-end gaming PC makers are all sick of AMD and the alleged but manufactured and false quality problems.

In return they get paid in the form of product discounts, MDF, and/or other assorted funding to a total directly based on the sales of AMD products they either had or would likely have had. On top of this they also gain earlier access to Maxwell GPUs than other OEMs. The total is of course more than the total of AMD sales so it is a net financial positive although some may be indirect, not that it needs saying, and it is what we were hinting at in our earlier article but could not say at the time without further confirmation.

While SemiAccurate is not up on the nuances of antitrust law, from our perspective this looks to be both blatantly illegal and falls afoul of a whole mess of antitrust rules. While this is only our opinion, sources high up at Nvidia are saying the Nvidia Board of Directors agreed with our assessment. In fact our sources told SemiAccurate that earlier today the board called a one Jen-Hsun Huang about the topic, SEC regulations, and ethical corporate behavior, and “reamed him a new one over Tier 0“. I guess the board doesn’t like it when the leadership ethics of their company are exposed for what they really are.

In any case if you read the PCWorld story and updates, and looked at the statements of Origin PC’s CEO on Twitter last Sunday evening, it is clear that both Nvidia and Origin PC claim innocence. Their public statements do not make logical sense. Tier 0 was unquestionably an Nvidia sales program, it unquestionably gave Origin PC compensation for publicly badmouthing AMD, and it is unquestionably not as either company is desperately trying to spin it since SemiAccurate exposed it.

Tier 0 as a program was meant to be rolled out to other vendors with similar sweeteners, early Maxwell access, and assorted other publicity boosts. Origin PC was only the first company to bite, as SemiAccurate said in our earlier article others were similarly approached. Unfortunately for them whether they signed off on it or not, the program is now officially dead. It seems that no less than Jen-Hsun himself canned it after the board, “reamed him” over Tier 0. I guess that unethical and likely illegal behavior wasn’t a problem at Nvidia, the board calling him on it however was. Doesn’t that say a lot?S|A

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate