AMDs Image Problem

Chip maker must support partners and market to end users.

AMD has an image problem, and the company knows it.

It is a distant second to processor market-share leader Intel and, as such, is often perceived as the one with the less desirable product.

Pretty much what all end users have historically gotten from AMD—by way of marketing, print and online ads—is the sense that those machines with the vendors chips are cheaper.

And since "cheaper" in this context has a dual meaning, the AMD brand has gotten stuck with both images. Perception is, of course, frequently out of sync with reality. But perception unchanged is perception become reality.

Now AMD has a real opportunity to change that image through its efforts to build a channel infrastructure that acknowledges the existence of VARs, integrators, solution providers and ISVs, in addition to the system builders that for years have been inserting AMD chips into low-cost machines.

AMD is casting a wide net with its first commercial channel. The question is whether the company is up to the task. For channel partners to lead with the AMD brand, the vendor had best be prepared to put some serious investment behind supporting the partners and marketing to end users.

In announcing the Commercial Channel Access Program, AMD said a lot of the right things.

It is making available to partners a host of Web-based resources, including white papers, product information and channel-specific customer support, all of which have unquestionable value.

But, more important, the chip maker is giving partners access to its business development team and field account managers. It also plans to provide specialized support to partners and promote solutions aimed at tackling end users business challenges.

AMD also formed a Commercial Channel Council, through which channel partner members can offer feedback, gain access to company executives and learn about strategy.

Formation of the council is especially encouraging, since it shows AMD is willing to listen. And that indicates an openness to new ideas and to making adjustments where needed when partners suggest them.

If AMD has any hope of combating Intel effectively, it not only has to listen to partners but also execute on all the measures it is putting in place.

Intel has a long history with the channel, and shifting attention of VARs and integrators away from the market leader will take a lot of work.

Some of that work will have to be in the area of marketing to end users. While supporting the channel in its technical, marketing and sales needs is fundamental, getting the message out to users is imperative.

AMD remains primarily an industry name, while everybody with a television knows about Intel as a result of the wildly effective Intel Inside campaign.

Consider how much most users know about whats inside their telephones or televisions, compared with their awareness of which company made the chips in their computers. Whether the average user will ever know if the CPU in his or her computer is branded "AMD" will demonstrate how successful the vendors newly launched efforts turn out to be.

AMD has reason to feel optimistic, considering the success of its Opteron products in the enterprise market. In addition, the companys new mobile and desktop products have come a long way. But good technology isnt enough. It should just be a given. Success ultimately rides on how well AMD supports its partners and promotes itself to the market.

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. Contact him at