Seems like we can’t open our inboxes without more news about AMD re-vamping its internal structure. The latest appointment put John Taylor (no relation to Roy, or so we’re told) into the communications hot seat. KitGuru considers the challenges he will face and whether he is perfectly suited to the role.
When AMD bought ATi in 2006, the gap between cultures was huge. The team at ArtX, who created the Nintendo Gamecube, all had a sunny ‘Californian’ disposition – certain in their abilities and willing to engage freely with press and customers alike. ArtX was bought by ATi in 2000 and immediately began to completely overhaul the graphics giant from within.
AMD’s traditional approach can be described, in the nicest way possible, as more ‘buttoned down’.
When presenting in public, the AMD people were slick and professional – but communications with the press in a casual environment could be a tad tense, to say the least.
We can probably give you a better picture if we were to say that, for a long time, dealing with Intel felt far warmer and more approachable – and that’s a Nasdaq heavyweight with over $85m in assets (so plenty to lose if it mis-speaks).
The challenge for AMD is that its other great rivalry is with nVidia,a company run by one of the smartest and most charismatic individuals this market has ever seen: Jen Hsun Huang.
In the flesh, Jen Hsun’s approach is far closer to that of the ArtX guys (despite his own roots in AMD). Essentially, you are talking about a complete expert who has been setting trends since the 90s and happy to discuss anything with anyone at any level.
While AMD is known for targeting small/medium sized audiences (with its own executives giving the briefings) – Jen Hsun likes a BIG HALL. He’s regularly shared nVidia stages with some of the most glamorous stars around – including Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica. To put it a different way, when when AMD and nVidia have a similar sausage, nVidia has regularly sold its sizzle stronger.
As AMD deploys teams to the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, CeBIT in Hannover and Computex in Taiwan, it’s clear just how much is needed from John. He needs to:-
- Convince the hard core professional designers and producers that his company has a workstation product that can compete with Quadro – by messaging the benefits of FirePro – or he risks handing nVidia the ongoing R&D budget to develop high end graphics while AMD would have to fund that business unit from other areas
- Sell corporates on the idea that SeaMicro systems can be used as the building blocks to establish huge farms of low TCO server processing power – by messaging performance, stability and compatibility
- Ensure that the game developers decide on a strategy for consoles first, then expand that across to the PC and other environments – by creating the feeling that APU is the natural gateway product to all other platforms and that TWIMTBP has had its day
- Make sure the multi-nationals like HP hear convincing words about the benefits of Dual Graphics, so when they make a machine with an APU, they ship it with a set up that means adding an additional AMD graphic card is simple (which would immediately increase AMD’s TAM (Total Available Market) in a way that nVidia could not compete with). If a ‘Soccer mom’ can’t buy this as a present for her kid, then the TAM takes a hit. Get it right – and it’s a ‘shut out’ opportunity for upgrades with the MNCs
- Explain to the press that the criteria for testing (anything) needs to make sense in the 21st century – which means getting the right market data out, to the right people, in a prompt and efficient way
- And, last but by no means least, carry a strong message that AMD can compete in the mobile space (laptop, tablet and smartphone) – either on its own or as part of a combined effort with ARM and the new 64-bit technology
John has a heavy-hitter background that, in our experience, works wonders when dealing with the financial press and analysts, but can present challenges in a guerilla warfare situation. A bit like offering ‘Marquess of Queensbury Rules’ for a street fight, when the other chap has already pulled a knife.
The last challenge we’re going to highlight before we sit back, old man style with slippers and a TV remote, is the need for AMD to deliver truly strategic messaging. Fusion was going to be fantastic for the future, but challenges with the naming/branding created enough issues to make the company want to go a different way. That caused confusion and, even today, people will call use Fusion to mean ‘the whole APU thing’. Unfairly, maybe, but John’s messaging needs to be ‘right from the start’. Rough on a world stage, but necessary when competing with Intel and nVidia (and Qualcomm and Samsung).
KitGuru says: This role really will mean dancing the tango on the head of a needle in tornado-level cross winds. If AMD is unable to communicate its benefits, then each market in which the communication fails – the business unit will be in trouble. Losing business units would not be the end of the world, every company evolves over time, but it would be a waste to gear up to compete in a sector and then have to ‘dump the hand’ later. If John gets it right, then each small victory will appear bigger and more real, creating added momentum of its own. We’ll be watching his progress to see if he is Taylor, swift to deliver.
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