ALAMEDA, Calif. – Advanced Micro Devices picked quite a unique place to introduce its new graphics strategy: in the hanger of the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet. The ship, rich with history in war and in recovering the Apollo 11 astronauts, was decommissioned before AMD even opened for business and now serves as a floating museum.
One of AMD’s points in the presentation was that our way of buying is somewhat antiquated too, particularly for consumers, and that’s something AMD (NYSE: AMD) wants to change.
“The speed of the processor is no longer defining their experience as a user. What defines their experience is what they see and feel. They don’t know hyperthreading from hyperbole and they don’t care about gigahertz any more,” Nigel Dessau, chief marketing officer for AMD, told the crowd gathered below deck.
“The only things we can talk about are things with numbers. This is a way for retailers to say to a person ‘what do you want to do with a PC?’ and help them make an informed buying decision.”
AMD VISION is a new tagging system that focuses on the visual experience of the PC and replaces 220 old different configurations and badges that AMD previously used, Dessau said.
With its 2006 blockbuster purchase of ATI Technologies, AMD now has motherboard chipsets and graphics chips all under one umbrella, and offers the three as a one-stop shopping package to computer makers.
Basic, Premium, Ultimate and Black
This led to many different logos for different types of CPUs, chipsets and graphics configurations. Raised to the power of three for all-AMD configurations, it got downright confusing. Rather than hundreds of configurations based on speeds and feeds, AMD will introduce VISION along with Windows 7 computers on October 22, with four different ranks: Basic, Premium, Ultimate, and Black. They all scale up based on performance and intended usage.
The Black edition, like AMD’s Black edition processors, will be for the hardcore tweakers who like to overclock their systems and otherwise modify them in ways most users wouldn’t think of doing. AMD has a page, called Which VISION?, that will guide customers in making a buying decision.
The catch is that it applies only in an all-AMD system. It won’t apply to a mixed system that might feature an nVidia (NAQSDAQ: NVDA) graphics card paired with an AMD CPU or an Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) CPU with ATI graphics card.
A change in how PCs are sold is long overdue, said Jon Peddie, president and founder of Jon Peddie Research. “The notion of consumers not caring about Gigahertz is true. We’ve run these surveys ourselves and asked questions like that, and those aren’t the things most consumers look for,” he told InternetNews.com.
JPR surveys found one in three or even as few as one in four respondents were interested and tuned into things like cores and clocks. “So you have to ask, 66 percent to 75 percent of buyers don’t care about megahertz, why are we spending all this time talking about megahertz? It’s been a legacy thing we’ve just drug along with us with us without examining why we’re doing this,” he said.
Next page: Six screens, no waiting
Page 2 of 2: Six screens, no waiting
Multi monitor support has been around for years but a very expensive proposition. AMD introduced a new technology called Eyefinity that will support six large, widescreen monitors, either independently or with a single game or application split among the six screens.
Eyefinity will come with new ATI cards, which are on track to ship around the same time as Windows 7, according to Rick Bergman, senior vice president of the products group. It will give raw resolution of up to 268 megapixels, and apps and games will work without modification.
For gamers, it means their game can be spread over six screens, all operating in tandem for a huge field of vision. For Wall Street and financial users, it means one PC can show six separate display feeds, and all on a card that will run around $300, according to Dessau.
To show off the true power of this technology, AMD had a demo PC with four cards, for a total of 24 screens, all displaying a single image of a videogame. Dessau said display maker Samsung plans to introduce specific monitors to support the six-screen configuration, set up three across and two down, with very thin outer bezels, so the image is interrupted as little as possible.
New notebooks have ‘Vision’ and Windows 7
Backing up the VISION announcement is news of upcoming notebook debuts timed to be available at the Windows 7 launch. AMD announced 10 OEMs will have more than 20 notebook models in the ultra thin line, using the VISION basic label. Additionally, eight OEMs will launch more than 40 notebooks with the VISION Premium and Ultimate brands, and these will be full sized, more powerful notebooks.
The ultra thin notebooks will have a 13.3-inch screen and be ideal for Blu-ray playback, while the Premium and Ultimate models will have up to a 17-inch screen and support video editing as well as playback.
Leslie Sobon, vice president of worldwide product marketing, reiterated the VISION message and the issue of consumer confusion. The firm did consumer research 18 months ago before coming up with VISION.
“The first thing we found is PCs have become entertainment devices for mainstream consumers,” she told InternetNews.com. “They look at them as smartphones and TVs. They are doing more entertainment usage on their PC and managing things like photos and their music library.”
The graphics on the new notebooks will also be upgraded compared to prior generations.
“Consumers don’t understand the value of graphics. If they do, they think it’s tied to gaming. They don’t realize it makes graphics smoother and makes life easy. We’re going to make graphics matter but do it in the way to make it matter to the mainstream user in ways they care about,” she said. That means graphics acceleration and smoothing of things like video playback.
The new standard laptops will be the first to ship with 45 nanometer CPUs from AMD, running at 2.6Ghz and sporting a new chipset.