The UK has updated its guidelines for government IT procurement contracts, bringing them in line with European regulations that prohibit the public sector from discriminating against vendors in invitations for bids.

The move has been applauded by AMD, which said it would help level the playing field in Europe’s chip market. Some governments have been scolded by the European Union for stipulating chips from AMD rival Intel in their tender offers.

The guidelines, issued this month by the UK's Office of Government Commerce (OGC), state that contracts for microprocessors, PCs and other computer equipment must use generic terms, such as "x86 processors”, and not request specific brands or clock speeds.

"The requirements for microprocessors must exclude any reference to brands (eg Intel, AMD)," the guidelines state.

They will become part of UK law from January 2006, although agencies are instructed to begin following the guidelines immediately, an OGC spokesman said.

Similar guidelines have been issued by the French, Italian, Swedish, German, Belgian, Japanese and US governments, AMD said in a statement.

They come as AMD pursues a broad antitrust suit against Intel in the US, accusing it of using its market heft to maintain a monopoly illegally. The European Commission, which is the EU's antitrust enforcement arm, is also investigating Intel's business conduct, along with authorities in Japan and South Korea.

Intel has denied any wrongdoing.

The EU has said that governments must not discriminate against any vendor when they issue requests for tenders. Last year, it ordered at least six European countries to explain why they favoured Intel processors in computers for public authorities.

Governments can't specify a brand name unless it is impossible to describe a product in any other way, and specifying a clock speed is not sufficient to indicate the required performance of a computer, the Commission has said.

AMD stopped quoting clock speeds as an indicator of chip performance a few years ago, saying other criteria provide a better measure of performance.