AMD Ships Out New Sales Strategy On U.S.S. Hornet

"Consumer focus groups tell us they don't want to talk about the technology. They say that the speed of the processor no longer defines their PC experience," said Nigel Dessau, chief marketing officer at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based AMD.

"No more techno-babble," he added, opening a day-long event on the Hornet, the vessel that fished the Apollo 11 command module out of the ocean after its successful splashdown following the first manned trip to the moon. The carrier is now a museum in Alameda, Calif.

Taking a page out of Apple's book, AMD will attempt to woo consumers in retail stores like Best Buy with point-of-sale material and sales training that emphasizes the overall PC experience instead of the speeds-and-feeds message that Dessau said has dominated retail engagements for two decades.

"The only thing we have working against us is 20 years of processor marketing. Or really, one year of processor marketing that we've all repeated 19 times," he joked.

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In a mock retail environment set up on the Hornet, new AMD Vision-stickered notebooks -- many of them unreleased -- from PC makers Hewlett-Packard, Asus and MSI were on display. While AMD has traditionally armed retail partners with booklet-sized point-of-sale literature and dozens of different logos for different configurations, Vision deploys just three stickers, a thin supporting pamphlet and scant reference to clock speeds or cache size.

The shift away from deep-diving technical marketing is the result of feedback from focus groups and shop-along experiments that AMD has conducted over the past year, said Leslie Sobon, AMD's vice president of worldwide product marketing.

AMD Vision breaks PCs built on AMD processor and graphics technology into three categories that emphasize what a given system can do for the end user, she said. Standard Vision stickers will go on low-priced systems suitable for playing games and consuming media; Vision Premium designates more powerful PCs for users who want to do a bit more; and Vision Ultimate is for high-end workstations that are used to create visual content.

The emphasis on gaming and entertainment consumption reflects AMD's market research, Sobon said.

"We know that computers are seen as entertainment devices by consumers. And that means there's a great connection to our technology, with our CPU and GPU integration," she said. "But how can we communicate that in the retail setting? The current strategy we have clearly isn't working for us that well -- look at our market share."

Next: Multidisplays And Graphics Thursday's event on the Hornet wasn't just about a new marketing direction. The chip maker also talked up Eyefinity, a new multidisplay technology that Rick Bergman, head of AMD's Products Group, claimed will mark "an inflection point in the PC industry."

AMD's Eyefinity technology can support up to 24 displays on a single graphics card and can be used for high-definition videoconferencing. "The channel has a great upsell opportunity on displays with this technology," ventured one AMD spokesperson.

AMD also teased its upcoming 40-nanometer generation of graphics processors, which will be released on Sept. 23 in conjunction with Microsoft's launch of its Windows 7 operating system and Direct X 11 visual computing standard.

"This is the first chip ever made that has over two billion transistors, and it will be the flagship chip in our portfolio," said Bergman, who described the upcoming GPU as "the most sophisticated, most powerful chip in the world."

About a year after AMD released the first graphics chip capable of a full teraflop of compute power and wowed reviewers with its ATI Radeon HD 4870 video cards, the chip maker said it has ratcheted that number up to 2.5 teraflops on its upcoming chip -- which will drive a new family of ATI graphics cards sold at the same price points as the current generation of ATI products.