Am I the only one that’s been confused by marketing attempts by Intel and AMD as they grapple with fractional market share gains in a crowded arena where the consumer has almost no reason to really care what CPU is in their computer because there’s no obvious advantage to either company’s hyped ViiV or LIVE! technologies?
I’m a good case in point: I can tell you confidently that the average download speed on my cable connection is just over 6 Mbps (God Bless you, Cox Communications). I care about that because I can see the result of the technology everytime I log on to my blog or when I run many of my applications –which are increasingly web-based. But do I know what my processor speed is, or what specific examples of microcoded instructions within the processor are? I don’t have good answers for either of those questions and AMD and Intel are to blame.
All of this comes about as a result of a call I received from a friend with a simple question: What’s the best processor for me?
Before I answered the question, I had a few of my own. I wanted to know what did the person think the top two or three uses of their machine would be, how much money could they spend on the system and would the computer need to be toted from one location to another. The potential buyer was able to rule out notebooks from the decision matrix and told me the primary use of the soon-to-be bought machine would be work-related and the occasional editing of photos and creating photo scrap books dedicated to preserving snapshots and other graphics files.
The upper limit of their budget was just over $1,600 (enough to buy a very capable machine –including an Apple Macintosh-- in today’s market) so I came back with my recommendations, an HP or Fry’s Media Center PC with either an AMD 64-bit dual core processor or an Intel duoCore2, configured with big hard drives and lots of memory as well as (gasp) Vista or Apple OSX.
I asked this person to go to Intel.com and AMD.com and look at the promotional material for ViiV and LIVE technology. As expected, when they called back, they were as confused as I am about why they should care what processor is in their machine.
And that’s the marrow in the bone I want to pick with Intel and AMD’s marketing people. After thinking about this and going through the purchase decision a couple of times neither processor maker is doing a good job of differentiating their desktop products or providing compelling reasons for someone to buy a name branded system
Would someone please tell me how this happened? I don’t get it.
Intel has some great marketing people but somewhere along the way to Performance Bonus City, it appears that they’ve forgotten overall performance is just as important as say using a personal computer as a television, radio or CD player.
To concede a couple of points to Intel, i do like the somewhat all-inclusive Viiv decision matrix, although it didn't ask me if I believed in motherhood, Apple pie, or the Disney Main street Electrical Parade.
The same can be said of AMD, which enjoys a favorable market position among PC gamers who configure their systems with hyperspeed graphics subsystems, gobs of memory, fast I/O devices and, in come cases, liquid cooling to improve processor and video subsystem performance.
So what are Intel and AMD hyping today? Streaming video, graphics and other data types that first depend on a highspeed incoming data pipe before the information goes to the processor. And that data pipe is a function of the ISP or the network, not the CPU maker, although both processor makers seem hung up on the idea of their products being better suited to the streaming data concept than the other.
And what neither company has done is lay out a clear case of why ViiV or LIVE! matters one whit to the consumer. To me, it appears that Intel didn’t learn from the MMX (multimedia Extension) experience of the 1990’s.
During that period I was hip deep in testing desktop and notebooks for a magazine that stopped killing trees, went web-only and promptly died. Waiting for non-MMX machines to finish my graphics applications benchmarks was as much a test of my patience as it was of the machine. But when MMX-enabled apps finally arrived, the time it took to run my benchmarks dropped by almost half. That was the proof I, and my readers needed, to show that MMX had promise, particularly for anyone who had to chew through big graphics files.
That same proof of concept seems to be missing with ViiV and LIVE! and it’s hard to convince a potential buyer that the technology is important using marketing phrases alone.
What AMD has done with Live disturbs me even more. For reasons that are unclear (other than it may have been the “softer easier” route) AMD uses brief celebrity endorsements to push its technology.
Hey AMD, want in on a little secret? I don’t know a single person who would be moved to buy a desktop with one of your processors merely because some D-list celebrity uses the machine as part of their en-suite recording set up, or to creates storyboards for films. Furthermore, while celebrity endorsements may be the “Hollywood” way to go, they don’t tell me squat about how I can do the same thing.
But wait, there’s more. If you really wanted to gain some market share in such places here’s a two-word clue that might help: “software bundle.” And if you don’t know where to look I can recommend two good consultants that can give you appropriate directions: Rob Enderle (Rob@enderlegroup.com) or Chris Shipley (Chris@Guidwiregroup.com). Now, go out and sin no more.
The personal computer market has turned into an appliance marketplace and AMD and Intel may be at a loss to deal with this tipping point.
As a consumer, I’m smart enough to know that my being on the downstream end of an 8MB/s cable modem data pipe makes the streaming media experience more enjoyable than what your processor may or may not do.
And in a consumer appliance marketplace, I really don’t care whether my toaster can char bread that is 20 percent larger than a standard slice 15 percent faster.
Oh and one final thought about the consumer marketplace. There are no magazines called “etoaster,” “Toaster,” or “ToasterWorld.” There is, however, “Consumer Reports” and they don’t care much about Intel’s or AMD’s comarketing budget.
Oh, my friend, who started me on this quest? He ended up buying an iMac with a nice big screen and a great software bundle. It let him use his existing software and came bundled with personal productivity applications that meet his needs. Apple and Intel? Who would have thought?—Jim Forbes, thinking about buying a new desktop computer on 03/26/2007.