AMD's Barcelona introduction: A celebration without fireworks
Opinion – AMD officially pulled back the curtain on its Opteron quad-core processor with an event held at the San Francisco's Letterman Digital Arts Center, home to Star Wars creator George Lucas. But the "most anticipated premiere of 2007" turned out to be a mostly lifeless feel-good event for AMD and some of its closest partners, leaving us somewhat confused and wondering: Did AMD deliver?
Just to be clear upfront, I skipped out of flying to San Francisco today, because I wasn't quite sure what the presentation in San Francisco's Presidio would offer, especially when AMD announced that the event would be available as a live webcast and some AMD executives to whom I would have liked to talk to were unavailable for an interview.
So, I am sharing my impressions from the event that I watched from the comfort of my desk chair, as perhaps many of you did as well. I'll invite you to chime into the discussion below, as I know that AMD is following our articles closely and they might also be interested in what your thoughts are on the product introduction.
Ahead of the presentation, I couldn't help but comparing AMD's upcoming presentation with Britney Spears' attendance at the Video Music Awards. Both have been high-flying, energetic stars not too long ago and both are under tremendous public pressure to make a successful comeback. Admitted, AMD is far from being the train-wreck display Britney gave us in recent months, but I was hoping that AMD would provide a killing performance and not resemble the disastrous show Britney was brave enough to put on stage.
No, you can't compare showbiz with the IT industry, and especially Intel has done successful product introductions that were terribly scripted and not quite what you would call exciting. But I felt that tonight's AMD presentation was nevertheless disappointing and had about as much life in it as Britney's lip-synching performance a day earlier.
Not that we would have expected an entertaining event anyway, but it was AMD that chose the location of the Star Wars home, which AMD chief executive Hector Ruiz called "inspiring." What followed in the next 80 or so minutes was not inspiring, but a surprisingly shallow event of short speeches of some guests and a seemingly endless row of video messages from AMD's partners. There weren't that many guests on location in San Francisco, so we had to listen to videos of Steve Ballmer (CEO, Microsoft), Ron Hovsepian (CEO, Novell), Charles Philips (president, Oracle), Ron Adkins (SVP, IBM) about their upcoming products. And yes, they all were nice and congratulated AMD.
On stage, there were Star Wars producer Rick McCallum, VMWare CEO Diane Greene, HP vice president Paul Miller, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Dell chief marketing officer Mark Jarvis. Yes, there were a lot of people that congratulated AMD; it was a continuous flow of messages about great new products and one of the most comprehensive shoulder-padding presentations I can remember. Like many of the people on video and on stage, AMD's own presenter Randy Allen somewhat failed to create excitement for the new product. There was little choreography, there was no drama, no climax, no conclusive ending and no "fireworks" that could have symbolized the importance of this new product. Just like Britney, AMD appeared to feel uncomfortable with the role of being in the middle of the stage. Randy Allen noted during his presentation that AMD's situation has changed since the introduction of the original Opteron processor: Back in 2003, the company had virtually no industry support, today it claims to have 50 partners in the server space. Even if AMD calls itself a customer-centric company, it has to learn to put itself into the spotlight and show that it is proud of what it has achieved. I did not quite see this today.
If I move on from Britney to Intel, the blue team also isn't quite known for exciting stage performances. I have criticized Intel and especially its CEO before for sterile stage performances during product introductions. But Intel manages to throw in surprising elements to make its presentations a bit more interesting. There was no such entertaining element in AMD's presentation.
Perhaps this industry is just boring in this respect and perhaps entertainment did not matter during the Barcelona introduction. But I wonder: Are quotes from executives how great this new processor is, one statement after another, enough – and appropriate? After praising AMD that Barcelona is finally available, wouldn't it have been fantastic to see some demonstrations what these CPUs are capable of and how they crush its competitor? We did not even see the product itself; AMD chose to provide brief explanations of the key technologies behind it instead.
I am sure that this product introduction really cannot be compared to Britney's VMA display. Server buyers care very little about what executives say and how they say it. The actual product counts and server buyers will determine themselves how good Barcelona really is. In the end, this product introduction may have very little impact on how well Barcelona will do in the market. But was the rather boring presentation a missed opportunity to create additional excitement for Barcelona? Absolutely.