AMD aims at simplicity for the tech generation

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Interview Chip firm AMD has integrated its portfolio of products and platforms and has a strategy aimed at targeting the tech generation rather than talking pure tech to people who don’t want to understand bits and bytes.

The tech generation accepts the ubiquity of PCs, notebooks and other electronic devices and wants to get the most out of their products rather than be bamboozled by CPU speeds, dual and quad cores, and tech jargon for tech jargon’s sake.

We took time out yesterday to interview Leslie Sobon, VP of worldwide product marketing and who was more than happy to range far and wide on various aspects of the industry as it is. The venue was Vinopolis, in Borough Market in Bermondsey.

Sobon was previously director of marketing for Dell, and has overall responsibility for server, workstation, notebook, desktop and embedded product lines.

She said that the design teams for AMD products – whether CPU or graphics, now consisted of one team, and she has overall responsibility for product marketing.

While she said that enterprises were still holding tight on buying at the server level, there were signs that would change. “For us,” she said, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Clearly, the only [people] purchasing now are consumers.”  And the consumer business interests her and has an effect on product plans.

She said that netbooks are confusing for consumers. When people walk into a store, they don’t necessarily know whether a netbook is the right thing to buy. “People should care what a notebook or a netbook does,” she said. A netbook, after it’s been bought, may not be able to deliver what a customer wants – if she or he wants high definition video, for example, it’s not being made entirely clear to them by the stores what a particular machine has to offer. AMD aims to change that – and while she said that clock speeds, liquid nitrogen cooling and the rest are important to gamers – that’s certainly not what the mainstream wants or needs.

She said that consumers don’t need to know about what the speed of a CPU is, nor do they particularly need to know about the number of cores a processor has. What they do need to know is what a machine does. Intel, she thinks, still concentrates on chip speeds and the technology associated with them overmuch.

The proliferation of netbooks has in general brought down the price of high specced notebooks too. She said research shows that Apple owns 80 percent of the market for notebooks that cost over $1,000 while it owns 60 percent of the market for notebooks that cost $800 or more.

Intel may well have made a success of the netbook but Sobon believes that it has in some respects undermined the market for notebooks.

We asked her whether the Globalfoundries spin-off had affected the way AMD does business. She’s agnostic about who makes the chips for AMD, but her firm has an excellent relationship with Globalfoundries. AMD remains excited about its Fusion plans – she expects products to be available in the back half of 2011.