Intel Evo, as a program, was and is inspired in that it has broad applicability to the need to better assure an Apple-like experience assured by Intel. AMD has responded with a similar program, currently focused on gaming computers, called AMD Advantage, which uses a broader blend of vendors to accomplish a similar goal.
AMD has reported that these co-branded systems are selling out at Best Buy, showcasing the success of this effort, which will likely expand to other models and additional markets.
These efforts have parallels with Mercedes’s very successful AMG program, where a unit that focuses on performance parts co-brands a car and assures that vehicle can perform to its limits. I’ve owned one AMG car, and it was impressively fast, and, on the track, it was competitive with cars explicitly built for track use and not street legal. But the AMG I had was a great daily driver as well.
That’s the promise of both AMD Advantage and Intel Evo in terms of providing the best experience. However, AMD Advantage is even more similar to AMG because it focuses nearly exclusively on gaming performance in laptops initially, which could also be used successfully for work.
Let’s talk about where these co-branded.
The first Co-Branded PC I carried, and still have someplace, was the Asus AMD Powered Ferrari laptop back in 2004. Yes, my peers made fun of me when I brought it to a meeting until they heard the startup sound, a Ferrari engine revving. It was cool looking, it sounded beautiful, and it was a pretty decent gaming laptop for its time. But its battery life stunk, it was on the heavy side, and the power brick was arguably the heavies I ever carried. Back then, performance and energy efficiency were mutually exclusive. But it still is one of the few laptops I look back at today fondly.
This co-branding concept is most common in cars, as I mentioned above, with the most mature effort being the Mercedes AMG offering and the most recent being the Unplugged Performance Tesla (which hasn’t yet merged with Telsa). Initially, AMG started like Unplugged Performance, a separate entity that would take a stock OEM car and turn it into a rebranded monster.
PCs have had several co-branding efforts, only one of which I was involved with, and that was the Hummer hardened Laptop from Itronix, which sold reasonably well until the GM discontinued the Hummer. Like the Ferrari and the less known Intel-based Lamborgini laptop, these car-branded laptops were somewhat co-configured with their car brands. Still, they never really rose to the potential that AMD Advantage and Intel Evo’s extreme tuning are now showcasing.
These latest co-branding efforts partially target Apple, which vertically integrates their products and provides a similar though less focused value proposition. They also go where Apple refuses to go in terms of co-branding. Apple will not co-brand and may not have to, given the power of their brand to differentiate. But Apple has defunded brand advertising, which means that its value is likely slowly depreciating, making them more vulnerable to targeted efforts like Microsoft Surface and Intel Evo.
As Apple moves into the car market while other carmakers embrace tech companies like AMD, Blackberry, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, there are additional co-branding opportunities that go both ways and products that more tightly integrate with the increasingly intelligent cars that carry similar components. While this may happen with Smartphones and focused tablets first and my bypass PCs altogether, we will increasingly see a level of care/personal tech integration we’ve never seen before.
And indeed, as we move from Smartphones and PCs to wearable cloud-connected products, the motivation to use fashion brands to differentiate those wearable offerings will increase, resulting in some unique partnerships and cross-brand mergers. Unless some of these companies are proactive, much of this will likely follow Apple’s move to create integrated offerings that force the use of Apple products in Apple cars consistent with Apple’s long-term lock-in strategy.
AMD’s new AMD Advantage strategy seems to be working very well and follows Intel’s so far successful Evo effort. But, I expect this is only the beginning of a co-branding trend that will expand out of technology suppliers. These efforts will evolve into automotive, gaming advocates, and fashion markets to better attract an increasingly focused group of buyers who will pay more for a product more uniquely conjured for their individual needs.
We appear to be approaching a co-branded wave that could do exciting things to markets, and that will gain a lot more focus. This pivot will be particularly pronounced after Apple launches its cars and PC OEM companies’ diversity efforts to penetrate the executive ranks with more women.
We may even see products co-branded with major blockbuster movie brands; for instance, I think a Captain America, Shield, or Iron Man laptop might be interesting were they relatively exclusive and timed with a movie release. And, oh, the Hummer is coming back, and it’s connected; maybe a Hummer Smartphone or Laptop would again be exciting and profitable accessories.
We’ll see, but I expect that we will have a lot more exciting co-branding and a ton more exciting PC designs by the end of the decade. I can hardly wait!