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AMD on VISION: consumers don't want megahertz and speeds

by Parm Mann on 12 May 2010, 14:43


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AMD has grown up, it seems. The very latest mantra appears to be one of 'out goes the focus on speeds, feeds and arcane specifications, and in comes easy-to-understand choices based on usage patterns for all platforms.' In a nutshell, this is what VISION is all about - simplifying the PC-buying experience based on evaluating how consumers use computers.

At an event in Cannes, Nigel Dessau, AMD's chief marketing guru, indicated that his company 'needs to continually rethink about how it delivers technology'. Consumers, he said, don't want to know about 'MHz, cores and speeds', rather they want to know about whether they can 'organise and view photos, have USB connectivity, and generate, edit and export high-definition content anywhere, anytime'. 'Computers need to be easier to use and easier to buy, too. Let's focus on the experience,' Dessau commented. His thinking underscores AMD's VISION stratagem.

VISION redux - focusing on experience rather than technology

Launched 200 days ago alongside a refresh for its laptop offerings, VISION's purpose is to simplify and revolutionise the speeds-and-feeds specification that, honestly, is only fully understood by only a small proportion of the computer-buying public. Dessau noted that AMD research indicates only 25m users are genuinely savvy about technology, calling these people 'processor-aware'. VISION seeks to address the 'processor-unaware' public, accounting for some 6,000m folk - or, well, the rest of the world.

As you may know, VISION provides four standards of certification for the consumer - VISION (Basic), VISION Premium,  VISION Ultimate and VISION Black. Each standard reflects a set of commonly-used functions - and these are continually evolving in the face of new usage scenarios, especially HD -  that the computer is capable of handling. The greater the performance and power, the higher the certification... without the confusing techno-jargon that's been hitherto presented by both technology companies and retailers.

With so much focus now on VISION and what it represents, AMD - uniquely positioned as a manufacturer of CPUs, discrete graphics cards, and accompanying chipsets - is now rolling in the branding for a range of qualified desktop and notebook platforms with the same levels of certification.

Partner support

Branding is irrelevant without considerable support from tier one manufacturers. Solidifying the VISION proposition, industry heavyweight HP recently announced a broad range of AMD-powered machines, at the direct expense of Intel in some cases. Acer, too, is weighing in with a number of AMD-exclusive designs, as seen in this article.

The reason why AMD is bullish and excited by VISION lies squarely with the number of new design wins it has garnered for both notebooks and desktops. AMD says that it has 135 design wins for notebooks, including 26 ultra-thin offerings, and a substantial number for desktops, and all will be released in the next few months from high-profile partners.

No real traction thus far. What's the real point?

VISION makes implicit sense in many obvious ways yet AMD's strategy also means that every VISION-certified PC is comprised of an AMD processor, chipset, and graphics card. As VISION PCs are complete systems sold by, in the main, tier one manufacturers, there's value in the entire chain: everyone gets to eat.

So why hasn't VISION been a resounding success before? AMD's had decent, price-conscious components out for a while now but hasn't been able to make the overall proposition resonate with manufacturers, often failing at the final hurdle. Remember the Spider Platform? One answer why you'll see a three-fold increase in VISION-based systems this year may revolve around the recent out-of-court settlement between Intel and AMD - one that should give the smaller semiconductor company a less-constrained route on to retail shelves at Best Buy and PC World. Another maybe that AMD finally has its internal house in order and can now present a coherent message.

The bombast surrounding VISION needs to be set against real-world pragmatism, however. The latest research indicates that AMD's chips power only 12 per cent of the mobile PCs sold today, with Intel accounting for practically all the remaining 88 per cent. Intel, fresh from handing AMD a cool billion bucks, will be keen to keep the Austin upstart at arm's reach, and the chip giants huge marketing budget and mass market infiltration will continue to be a thorn in AMD's side. Intel will remain the dominant manufacturer of PC chips and chipsets for a long while yet.

What's becoming clear, however, is that AMD doesn't want to sell you just a CPU. It would rather you took a look at HP, Acer, ASUS, et al, and bought an entire VISION system.

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Aghhh, marketing buzz overload!! *headsplode*