Lawyers And Mechanics

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There’s a linguistic mismatch between the producers of computer equipment and their consumers.

Those who read the statements don’t usually scrutinize these statements. They work with things, not words. They take statements at face value.

Those who write the statements, though, are playing an entirely different ballgame. They work with words just as much as a mechanic works with things. When they need to be, they can be masters of misdirection and come up with very craftily worded statements which seem to say one thing, but really don’t.

The classic example of this is former President Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman.” By some legal definitions, he was quite correct, but 99.9% of the people hearing and reading that statement weren’t using that particular legal definition.

A very recent example of this phenomenon in the computer industry can be found here:

To quote:

SMOOTHVISION is in fact a supersampling AA algorithm and does not use multisampling as we had originally assumed. While we could swear it was originally presented to us as a multisampling solution (that would explain how every other website out there has it listed as a multisampling AA algorithm), ATI insisted that they never mentioned it as either a super or multisampled solution – just a pseudo random-sampling AA algorithm.

Another example was nVidia and nForce. nVidia swore up and down last June that they’d be pumping out nForce chipsets in just a few months. They did technically get some chipsets out when they say they would, but several months later, we’re not exactly flooded with nForce offerings, are we?

See how it works?

This works particularly well in the computer field since those in it simply don’t have the skills/training/inclination/awareness and/or just practice in scrutinizing every statement like a lawyer looking for loopholes in a contract.

For those that do and who write these things, it’s like stealing candy from a baby.

Is AMD Delayed Or Not?

An analyst at JP Morgan stated yesterday that AMD is experiencing “some difficulty” in stabilizing its 0.13um process technology, putting its plan for a volume ramp of such chips in 1Q 2002 at risk.

Some have expressed the opinion that CPU analysts generally don’t know what they’re talking about, and after watching them in action, I can hardly disagree with that assessment.

Surely, a statement from AMD would clarify matters, and sure enough, somebody over there said something about it. I quote:

The transition is going smoothly and AMD remains on schedule to ship the first production 130-nanometer devices in Q1 2002. We’re currently experiencing no process transition problems and no production problems.

Most people reading that would consider this a denial of the analyst report.

It actually says nothing.

Here’s what a real denial would have said:

“The transition has been going smoothly and we expect to have production shipments next quarter.”

Let’s take the AMD statement apart:

“The transition is going smoothly”: At most, all this says is that the transition is going smoothly right now. That doesn’t mean it’s always been going smoothly (also see below).

AMD remains on schedule to ship the first production 130-nanometer devices in Q1 2002 All this could mean is that AMD hasn’t changed the schedule yet. About six months ago, AMD showed roadmaps to investors with Palominos on schedule, too, then changed the schedule right after the meeting.

It should also be noted that AMD only promised mobile Thoroughbreds in Q1. Desktop Thoroughbreds are only supposed to come in Q2. No mention of desktop processors at all.

Remember that AMD got shipments of mobile Athlon 4 out well before desktop Palominos showed up. Getting a shipment of lower-speed mobile chips out is a far cry from full desktop production.

This might also explain a rather curious graph. It shows no improvement in AMD performance as of April 2001, which you’d expect if desktop Thoroughbreds were due to show up at that time. There is a tick upward in August.

We’re currently (emphasis mine) experiencing no process transition problems and no production problems.

Why is the word “currently” in there? Again, that seems to indicate that AMD isn’t haven’t any problem right now rather than not having had problems.

If you were working on a project, it was going smoothly, and your boss asked you how it was going, you would say something like, “I haven’t had any problems” or “No problems yet.” You wouldn’t say, “I’m currently having no problems” if you haven’t had any problem. “Currently” implies you had problems before, but not now.

Why is AMD saying “We currently experiencing . . . no production problems?” Of course they’re having no production problems. It’s not in production yet.

Where There’s Smoke, Thinking “Fire” Isn’t Paranoid

Can I conclude definitively from this that AMD is running into major problems? No. What I can conclude is that this statement is not the flat-out denial it looks to be, and that raises my suspicions a lot more than the analyst statement. Why use terms the average person would never use if everything was going fine for them?

I also have to consider their track record. AMD had problems getting desktop Palominos out, and did all kinds of songs and dances to avoid admitting to that. To paraphrase an old song, “They’ve done it before and they can do it again.”

It would be crazy to conclude that we’re bound to see another six month delay for Throughbred like we did for Palomino, but it would be just as crazy to assume the opposite.

If I had to bet, I’d bet we’ll see desktop Thoroughbreds closer to the beginning of summer than spring.

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