Marketing Over Matter

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The Intel strategy for the next six-nine months is becoming clear: “You Need a PIV, Now!”

MHz Matters

Intel plans to make the PIV the platform of choice for all but the inveterate cheapskates (for which there is Celeron).

PIVs are going to be found as low as the $800 price point (I presume that’s without monitor), but that’s still pretty low.

I have no doubt Intel can do that, the problem is with what you get for it. That $800 machine is going to have a .18 micron
PIV running at 1.5Ghz with 128 or maybe 256Mb worth of SDRAM, along with a not-too-stellar supporting cast.

The Intel spiel will undoubtedly boil down to: “Why buy a 1.1 or 1.2Ghz machine from somebody else when you can buy a 1.5Ghz Intel machine
for the same price.”

Intel is banking everything on that argument being a winner to the average computer buyer.

While I have grave doubts this is going to spur the computer market on a lot simply because a lot of people and businesses aren’t going to be in the market to buy any kind of computer, I think this is going to be very hard for AMD to overcome.

Please don’t write me telling me that 1.5Ghz PIV with SDRAM is going to be an awful performer. I know that. It’s going to be dreadful.

But that doesn’t matter. The point of the article is to tell you that that doesn’t matter.

If Joe Sixpack or Joe Businessman believes 1.5Ghz is better than 1.2Ghz; Intel wins. It doesn’t matter whether it really is or not.

The Challenge

The average person considers a computer to be a glorified VCR. It’s a piece of consumer electronics. He/she judges consumer electronics by a handful, or even just one item/buzzword he/she thinks is important. So he/she judges computers the same way.

MHz is a very easy and convenient way to differentiate between computers in a flash. A great thing to have when you don’t have the foggiest notion of what you’re doing.

Before you call such people stupid or worse, ask yourself first if you ever bought a TV or stereo or VCR just the same way.

Understand that when you tell people that their standard doesn’t work, you’re taking away the one certainty they thought they had on the subject and implying that they were pretty stupid to use it in the first place. Don’t be surprised if a lot of people are very resistant to that.

Understand that the dumber you make the person feel, the less likely they are to listen to you. Also realize that they’ve been told the opposite of what you’re saying perhaps dozens of times.

What AMD Has To Do

AMD is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They essentially did well precisely because they could throw up better Mhz numbers than Intel, now they have to turn around to suddenly say that MHz doesn’t matter anymore.

That’s going to sound like BS to many (even though it’s actually the case here).

Of course, AMD can mention benchmarks until they’re as blue in the face as the Blue Men. They can point to tests run by third-parties. They’ll have the facts on their side, but will it matter?

What will probably hurt even more is that Intel’s Northwoods probably will look as good or better (especially if you choose the right benchmarks) than the top-end Palominos, and it will be easy for Intel to make technically accurate ads saying that they’re better and faster.

The small little detail that a 2.4Ghz Northwood with dual-channel RDRAM is quite a different beast than a 1.5Ghz Willy with SDRAM will more likely than not get lost in the shuffle.

The Dark Horse: XBox

The greatest enemy to Intel’s PIV strategy may not come from AMD, but . . . Intel.

Yes, the XBox is on “Intel’s side” in the sense that it uses an Intel processor, but besides that, it’s practically the anti-Computer. It could turn out to be the computer equivalent of biological warfare and attack both friend and foe.

Can you say $299? Don’t you think that’s going to resonate in the minds of millions of Joe Sixpacks (and maybe more than a few businesses) a lot more than the conventional offerings?

Of course, it may have problems, but for the average walking-around person, I’m going to have to find a pretty good reason not to recommend it.

And if the average person is buying an XBox, just who is going to buy that $800 PIV systems?

Can Reality Get Out?

There will certainly be plenty of places where you’ll be able to find out how well these machines will perform. But will it matter?

Joe and I briefly discussed this topic, and we graciously disagree on the outcome. Joe thinks word will get out to the average person that these cheap PIV boxes aren’t much good and that they’ll flop. I don’t.

Only time will tell who is right and why. What is boils down to is whether or not intense advertising and marketing can overwhelm anything to the contrary in the minds of most.

I think it’s safe to say that AMD’s going to have a pretty rough ride the last quarter of the year, no matter what.

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