PCR talks to AMD's EMEA Channel Director Andrew Buxton

The best of both worlds

You’ve launched the Shanghai and Dragon platforms recently. How have they performed so far and what have been the main lessons to take away from that launch?
Servers have always been a strong point for AMD, and I think the Shanghai platform is really important. We have close partnerships on that side, so all that’s going very well. Dragon is a fairly generic name for a wide range, starting from the top with 955 processors, the 3.2 GB, highly over-clockable Black Edition, right the way through to a more mainstream, X2 based platforms. What your finding in the mid range is a lot more powerful processors than six months ago.

It’s not necessarily a product, its more a concept that we put out there. And our partners, system builders and e-tailers, make it into a product. So there’s a lot of flexibility for differentiation where all the different partners can go down a slightly different route and emphasise a slightly different part of that platform.

What we’re trying to do is emphasise the point that there’s two companies that make X86 products, and two companies make high end GPUs, but there’s only one company that does both – and chipsets as well.

If your linking together an AMD CPU with an AMD based motherboard, and an AMD graphics card, there’s an opportunity for a really nice balanced system. Of the messages going to the market, you’ve got some saying CPUs don’t really matter, and what you need is a really big GPU, whereas others are saying that processors are everything. We’re kind of in the middle, saying there’s an argument for both sides. What you want is a nice balanced PC.

I think the platform has encouraged the channel to do something a bit different and stimulate business, and anything along those lines in the current climate is welcome, right?

We’ve heard your planning to showcase the new Tigris notebook platform at Computex. What will be the importance of that launch for AMD and the notebook market?
Traditionally there have not been a lot of opportunities for notebooks in the channel – as in building locally. However we are looking for ways to change that. The current recession has made the ODMs in the Far East a lot more willing to look at opportunities in the channel that are a lot smaller than they would have done. Some of the big guys aren’t taking the volume so they have to be more flexible. This is early days but I think there’ll be some benefits from that.

What we’re looking at with the notebook side is, instead of just a pure netbook – in which the experience doesn’t always match what people are looking for – is to offer a thin and light solution with a long battery life that will actually offer some performance as well. It will pretty much allow you to run everything that Microsoft makes.

The netbook sector has actually kind of helped the channel. The channel tends to be stronger on desktops where, some of the multinationals aren’t as excited about building them as they used to be, mainly due to transport costs and that sort of thing.

At retail you need to react very quickly – let’s say you sell someone 100 units, and they say ‘that’s great, can I have 500 next week?’ Your multinationals are doing six month SKUs, planning and shipping them in form the Far East, which doesn’t really work. So the local guys have a good chance to win there. The desktop sector to me has been strengthened by the whole idea of netbooks. People want portability, but they want all their iTunes, photos, videos, nice and safe.

When can we expect to see Fusion rolled out full scale in the UK, and what will be the impact of that on the market?
You’re looking towards the end of next year before you see the first products come out. At the moment you have a graphics element on an integrated chipset. This is likely to merge onto the processor. Different people do it different ways. There’s not much been written about Larrabee yet, but Intel is trying to take more of a compute intensive approach, while we’ve already got the GPUs that we use there.

You’re probably going to see a different type of integration in notebooks and handheld devices. We feel we’re well positioned for that. We’re at 45nm at the moment, to really make this stuff useful we need to be at 35nm. So the next generation of silicon will be needed to really get the benefits of the integration.

I don’t see it affecting the high-end enthusiast. It’s more likely to affect the commercial client, where the most demanding thing you’re going to run is Vista or Windows 7.

And how are you doing with the high-end enthusiasts and gamers?
In northern Europe – Nordics, Germany, UK, and France – a lot of the enthusiasts are buying our products at e-tail. Some of those firms really focus on that high end. That market is still doing pretty well and that’s where we’re back in the game in a big way. If you go back to 2005/2006 we were pretty strong in that area, and then with the cyclical nature of the business we weren’t as competitive in ’07/’08.

The competition came back strong with some good products, and we slotted back into our previous positions. During ’08 we were there for the Phenom, but it didn’t really meet everyone’s expectations, though it got us back in the game. What we’ve been trying to do since then is really demonstrate a lot more value. When you’ve got one firm at the top end on its own, its difficult not to get complacent, and not bring down the prices as fast as people would like. Now that we’re back in the game I think we’ve seen a lot more aggressive positioning.

Will there be more avenues of growth available to AMD following Intel’s recent anti-trust fines across the globe?
This was the result of a nine-year highly exhaustive investigation by the European Union, their view was clear – that consumers had been disadvantaged.

We would say this is a real win for consumers in the future, to have choice and ongoing innovation. What we’ve seen is some companies that have been fairly Intel focused in the past are coming to us and asking for AMD processors and ATI graphics cards. We are seeing some more opportunities coming our way from people we haven’t talked to for a period of time. We should now see at least a fair chance to compete, which is all we’ve ever really wanted.

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