Anyone who can remember progressing from a Commodore 64 to a PC – largely with gaming in mind – can rest assured that it’s a very familiar path for the KitGuru editorial team. When we got the opportunity to interview MSI’s Product Manager, Joran Schoonderwoerd, we were definitely interested. Read on to see why!
Joran joined MSI five years ago and handled MSI’s Marketing & Communications for several regions in Europe, including the Benelux, Baltics, Greece and Hungary. However, since 2012, he has been given responsible for MSI’s Product Marketing across Europe. That means he’s not only the first point of contact for most of the serious press, he’s also the ‘key holder’ when it comes to the cool/insider info with regard to new and interesting products that MSI plans to deliver.
We asked Joran how many product lines make up his domain.
“Right now, I am responsible for Mainboards, Graphics Cards and MSI’s All-in-One PCs for Europe”, he explained.
That’s definitely the ‘cool stuff’ for us.
So, let’s have it, what is MSI’s hottest range right now?
“A year ago, that would have been the MPower range for extreme overclocking, but since the launch of MSI’s Gaming Range, I have a new favourite”, said Joran. “Basically, the MPower range has been designed to give you the very best of everything, whereas the MSI Gaming Range is more about key features that gamers can use every day to improve their scores”.
OK, that’s the simple explanation, but we wanted Joran to give us an in-depth break down of the differences between the Gaming and MPower ranges – and he was happy to oblige.
Joran told KitGuru, “The nice thing about the new Gaming Series is that they fit right in between the Classic and Overclocking series we already had for some time. The Classic Series motherboards have always been a great base for a stable and affordable PC. On the top end, we have the Overclocking Series, such as the XPOWER and MPOWER mainboards. But a couple of years ago we started encountering more and more gaming enthusiasts on events and we found their passion for games really inspiring. At that time, when we thought about gaming, we always assumed only the graphics matter.
“The funny thing was, when talking to PC gamers, a lot of them told us that some of the most frustrating issues while gaming were totally not related to graphics: lagging Internet connections, noisy audio, huge loading times, overheating PCs and so on. That’s when we started to realize we could make gaming better with a motherboard that combines a high performance, a good price and new technologies to improve the overall gaming experience”.
All the best ideas have a seed – a source – so where did the inspiration for this one come from?
Joran blames gamers in Northern Europe, explaining “This may sound obvious, but we went directly to the people who were buying the MPower kind of product – listening carefully to real users who were spending their hard earned money on MSI kit. In the past, we tended to put most of our efforts into the feedback gained from resellers, shops etc – but we wondered if we were missing something.
“Over the last two years, I’ve been to Poland, Germany, The Netherlands, U.K. and Scandinavia, where we simply talked with lots and lots of gaming clans and leagues. We asked them what they liked and didn’t like about our products – and what is really important for them in terms of gaming. Their feedback helped us to shape our own view on what gaming could and should be. After that we started to contact companies like Qualcomm and Creative to develop new technologies for our motherboards. It quickly became clear that adding these features to our existing classic or overclocking series products would not make sense for us, so a new range of Gaming motherboards was the most logical step”.
Around 5 years ago, when KitGuru first heard that Intel was likely to move away from mainboard design and manufacture, we were shocked. Through initiatives like Skulltrail, Intel had worked long and hard to mount a credible challenge in the desktop mainboard space. Indeed, when KitGuru first achieved 5GHz with air cooling on a Core i5 655k, back in May 2010, it was 0n an Intel DP55WG Warrensburg board.
Now Intel is moving away from this market altogether. What does that mean for MSI?
“System builders who always used to go for Intel motherboards will need to be looking for alternatives, so attracting those customers is definitely something we have looked in to. We’re working closely with Intel to see if we can offer their customers a comparable product, combined with similar terms and conditions. It’s an interesting challenge for MSI as some of the channels in which vendors such as Intel operate can be totally different from what we’re used to, but we pride ourselves on being fast learners”.
We take this opportunity to ask Joran about the other great rumour: That Intel chipset mainboards from the main manufacturers will ship with Intel already inside the box.
Joran smiles and reminds us that, “On entry-level platforms – based on Atom, Celeron, Brazos and Kabini – we already are selling mainboards with onboard CPUs, for example the MSI C847MS-E33. So this is not completely new to us. We intend to keep doing this on a long term. For middle to higher end platforms, we don’t expect Intel and AMD will stop making sockets any time soon, despite the rumours”.
That covers the most basic of components, the mainboard onto which the key components are mounted, but what about laptops? Still important?
Absolutely. Laptops are a very important pillar of our organization. We try hard to work smart. Rather than making a huge range of laptops and doing a little bit of everything, we would rather put our energy into specific, highly-focused products – including the MSI Gaming series laptops. We’ve also increased our efforts around All-in-One PC designs – and these have done well around the launch of touch-centric Windows 8. We’re actually launching a whole new All-in-One PC series very soon, so watch this space”.
So what else can we expect from MSI in the near future?
Joran told us, “We are already way down the line working on products for 2014 and we have some cool new stuff planned for the later part of this year, but I can’t go into details. Let me just say that if you watch the laptop and All-in-One markets, then you will be in for a pleasant surprise”.
Finally, how does Joran see MSI as different?
“One thing I like in particular about MSI is the attention to details we have for our mainboards. A nice example are the MPOWER series, for which we’ve literally spent days debating just the aesthetics of the boards. With each bit of text and each little chip on the beta-boards, we asked ourselves ‘Do we really need this? Does it add to the look, feel and functionality?’.
“Even though 99% of our component hardware ends up in a closed chassis, we are still determined that the first impression a customer has when opening the box is impressive. And we want that feeling to last way past the moment of assembly. Put a modern MSI overclocking motherboard next to any other board, past or present, and you will know exactly what I am talking about. The MPOWER just breaths sexiness”. His eyes drift a little. “Hmm, now I’m beginning to doubt whether the Gaming series really is my favourite”.
Enough of the seriousness – time for KitGuru to open up Joran’s character with some personal probing:-
What was the first computer Joran owned?
I had a blast with my Commodore 64 playing ‘Tanks’ and ‘Last Ninja’. In the mid-nineties I bought my first Compaq computer, but can’t remember the exact model.
If you were driving along a Pacific highway, on ‘the perfect day’, which car would you be driving, what song would be on your radio and who would be your passenger?
I would be cruisin’ in a black Ford Mustang GT, listening to ‘Regulate’ by Warren G and Nate Dog, sitting next to my girlfriend, Michelle.
If you wanted to impress friends, what would he cook at home?
My cooking skills are pretty basic, but I can make a killer quiche. Not sure if that’s a good way of putting it though…
Which dish does Joran love, but can’t make it right – so he always needs to order it at a restaurant?
Asian pastries. I cannot even pronounce them correctly, let alone make them. But I love them and want them.
If you could invent one thing, what would it be?
KitGuru says: First up, a BIG thank you to Joran for taking the time to speak with us. We have spoken with a major UK system builder recently and they have announced that 100% of their PCs now come with MSI mainboards. When we asked why, they told us that the improvements made at MSI over the past couple of years have been phenomenal – especially on the after sales support side of things. The support they were talking about is the kind MSI and its competitors need to provide fast and on a large scale when issues arise. Companies winning more business because of their after-sales support is a story that we love to hear all day long. We’ll keep you posted on any new laptop/All-in-One announcements from Joran and MSI!