[Beowulf] NVIDIA buying PGI

mathog mathog at caltech.edu
Thu Aug 1 14:02:05 PDT 2013

OJoe Landman wrote:

> It makes sense from a competitive "gird your loins" sort of way, as
> Intel has its compiler happily able to emit Larrabee ... er ... MIC
> executables.  Is that technology anticompetitive in Intel's hands?

Yes.  When hardware companies control compilers the end user suffers
in that, inevitably, competition is reduced when the hardware company 
causes one or more
of the compiler's target  hardware platforms to either be desupported, 
as here, or under supported, or
never developed, in the case of new hardware.

Our anti-trust provisions predate this sort of situation, and do not 
handle it effectively.  I cannot
think of an analogy in another real market.  This is an artificial 
example, but assume for
the sake of argument that there are a small number of pilots unions, 
and that a union may be
purchased.  Airline A buys the biggest pilots union, and then 
"desupports" its competitors
by refusing to provide them with pilots.  The new owner can argue, as 
you do, that their competitors
can still get pilots from the other unions, but in practice those may 
not have enough pilots,
or maybe they have less experience. Either way, Airline A has gained a 
competitive advantage,
not by improving its product (which has changed not at all: same 
hardware, same wetware), but
by artificially constraining its competitors.

Also for the sake of argument, consider the situation if a hardware 
vendor did not, and could
not, own a compiler vendor.  If another hardware vendor wanted a 
compiler vendor to produce a
product for their hardware, they could pay them to do so.  (They might 
very well
have to take that approach if the market was small.)   An end user, of 
sufficient size, could also
have contracted for this work.  This is a classic free market situation 
there are no anti-competitive mechanisms in action.  However, that 
approach is foreclosed if
the compiler vendor is owned by a competing hardware vendor.   How much 
would AMD (or an end user
of AMD kit) have to pay Nvidia to write compilers now?   Certainly a 
lot more than they would have
before the acquisition, and possibly no amount of money would be 
enough.  In no way is that a free
market, and the anti-competitive mechanism is obvious.


David Mathog
mathog at caltech.edu
Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech

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