AMD’s Shifting Channel Strategy

AMD may have snatched some publicity with its antitrust lawsuit against chip giant Intel , but the number two chipmaker is better known as a low-profile player.

When’s the last time you saw an “AMD Inside” ad campaign or broadcast TV ads featuring the Blue Man group? The company has long been happy to play the quiet partner to its computer customers and let them ballyhoo their brands.

No more. Next week it will formally roll out a program aimed at attracting and supporting core channel pieces: distributors, VARs and system integrators. In all, AMD is shifting its approach with some 60-70,000 resellers focused on IT in the U.S., as part of its latest strategy to build more mind share and market share.

“We want to be a tech partner with the SI (System Integrator) community,” said Ben Williams, AMD’s vice president of commercial systems. “They see us driving 64-bit and dual-core technology.”

The fruits of AMD’s plan, which was in the works for about half a year, are already paying off. Big distributors and integrators such as TechData, CDW, Avnet and EDS , are signing on to collaborate and help sell AMD-based systems.

“Three to six months ago EDS didn’t consider us part of the value chain,” said Williams. They do now.

Larry Lozon, vice president of data center services at EDS, said the system integrator recognizes the importance of forging strong relationships in the IT industry. “Our collaboration with Sun Microsystems and Sun’s partner, AMD, to offer Virtual Server Services, which runs on Sun servers powered by AMD Opteron processors, is built on a true commitment to bringing ground-breaking technology to our clients.”

Another part of AMD’s plan to gain new customers is as an alternative to Dell, which many distributors and integrators see as a direct competitor. “Customers are looking for a choice and we can give them something Dell can’t,” said Michael O’Brien, director of AMD’s worldwide commercial channel group. Dell does not use AMD in any of its systems.

After a ten year career at Sun Microsystems, where he also directed channel programs, O’Brien joined AMD earlier this year to head up the channel program.

AMD said it has already staffed and funded more than 20 solutions and campaigns with more than 15 different systems integrators, VARs and distributors participating in its commercial channel access program. Companies participating will have access to an AMD Web portal, which will include AMD product information, white papers and success story templates, joint customer solution pilots, channel-specific marketing support, access to the AMD business development team, and AMD-supported campaigns to help build awareness.

“We don’t have the people and money Intel does,” added Williams. “But we spend more effectively.”

Plus, some of AMD’s long-time partners are starting to help give AMD a more public presence. HP ran an ad in “USA Today” this week that featured an HP desktop, notebook and server running on AMD processors.

Williams said it’s the first time a major computer maker has featured a family of AMD-based systems in a national media campaign. Expect more splashes as it wades into its latest channel strategy.

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