In the Red corner

AMD's marketing director for EMEA Richard Baker insists the firm is back on track in engaging with the channel after an 'erratic' year, and discusses with Andrew Wooden the importance of offering a holistic graphics, mother board and processor dream team?
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Last month Ian McNaughton spoke to us generally about AMD being more active in the UK. Can you add any more light as to what that will entail specifically?

One of the things we're trying to do is deal with channel guys in a more direct way than we've done before. One of the things we did last season was run an engagement programme. We have a very keen sponsorship with Ferrari and one of the things that we've done is set a up a website – probably the best way to describe it is a fantasy Formula One.

First of all it's a fun thing for channel professionals to go for, and built into that as well is some broad level AMD training programmes. So it's a bit of fun and a bit of technical interest all built into one.

We're trying to actually communicate with people on a more personal level, and we're trying to do it in a way that actually engages with them rather than beating them across the brow with too much hard selling.

We're certainly investing more money in channel marketing programmes as well, throughout all our product lines. You'll see a much greater investment there. And we will also be going much further down the channel than we have before. We will be engaging with system builders that are more local and specialised than we have before. A number of things really; there will be a lot more focus in a variety of different ways.

What would you say to retailers who claim AMD hasn't been as focused on the channel in the past as they would like?

I would say that's not desperately unreasonable. We've certainly been a little inconsistent over the past couple of years and we're putting a lot of effort into re-engaging on that level. We're certainly looking at doing much longer and broader campaigns.

One of the things we've been guilty of is putting together campaigns that are very product focussed, and engaged in a little more naval gazing than we should have done. So we did a reappraisal of what the channel really wants in terms of marketing support from us, and put a programme together that's much more usable and much more friendly, and we're being a lot more flexible in our rules and regulations in providing a wider variety of tools that the channel can use.

There are changes on a lot of different levels really, but certainly we're becoming a lot more flexible and a lot more focussed.

Certainly on our CPU side we've been a little erratic in execution in 2007. We are now putting an awful lot of product focus on actually delivering according to what we'd say we'd deliver, and I think you'll see from the X3 and X4 executions that we've done in the previous quarter that we're back on track in terms of delivering what we've promised.

Certainly you've seen that with our Radeon offerings over the past year since ATi has come on board, we've delivered constantly on product introductions, and we're getting back on track with our CPU offerings as well. We realise how important that is particularly for the channel as you have to actually deliver on what you say exactly on time with products the channel can use and make money on.

Would you say there will be any change in customer focus going forward?

The short answer is yes really. Our latest chipset offering obviously addresses the mainstream market in its ability to actually offer platforms that can range from cheap all the way up to enthusiast level on a single platform. Our ability to run HD content and gaming as well on platform cost points that really haven't been able to do it in the past. I think we've really broken through a barrier with that with the new chipsets.

Obviously the X3 and the X4 products and all the way from mainstream up to enthusiast and touching the top end of gaming. Obviously it's very important to us and we want to make sure the products that we offer, in terms of their function, are done in such a way that our channel partners don't have to compete head to head with the tier one offering.

How do the recent Phenom launches fall into your plans going forward? In terms of AMD's history, how big a product launch is the Quad core and Triple core offerings?

They are vitally important to us. Phenom is a critical product. If you wanted me to align the products in the market, although they're not specifically restricted one way or the other, I would certainly expect X3, the triple core parts, to be extremely successful particularly in the channel, whereby they're positioned very, very well against Intel's duel core parts, and in retail where numbers always count – whatever the number – we expect quad core to be very successful.

Intel has said one the of its strengths is a strong establishment in emerging markets, Will AMD be moving further into these areas?

The short answer is yes absolutely. I was in Dubai only last week. We are working very hard in emerging markets, the Middle East is an obvious one. We're investing quite heavily in there. And also further afield in China an India. We have quite a few factory installations in China as well. Western markets, our more mature markets, are better structured to take the higher functioning part, but yes we are doing a lot of work in emerging markets. Absolutely that's on the increase.

Where do you plan to take AMD within the UK channel within the next two years? What's the long term plan in the UK?

The whole platform aspect is something we're working stronger and stronger on about providing real benefits from configuring systems AMD on AMD on AMD, with the synergies of processor, motherboard and graphics card are extremely important to us. For instance one of the features of our motherboards are if they detect an AMD processor and an AMD graphics card, built into it the chipset will automatically take advantage of the fact that basically they are all designed by the same company.

We know what our electrical margins are and we can take advantage of them. So there really are quite strong benefits of taking a system with an AMD motherboard, processor and graphics all in the same box. Its no secret we're are also looking to further integration in silicon. And you'll see that platform approach extending right down onto the silicon.

We have broad range products that are targeted towards general consumer through to the large retailers. Hopefully we look after the channel in that we are providing parts that are specific to the channel, so that it can take advantage of and actually increase margins that will provide them with the ability to compete, because we all know the channel can't compete with tier ones on price alone, so we offer benefits that the channel can make real margins out of.

We've always been good friends with the channel, we were a little erratic, to put it politely, last year. But I think we're back on track.

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