Lakers 40, Knicks 1

If This Were Really A Game . . .

Let’s say you go to a Lakers/Knicks basketball game with a friend. You get delayed, so you only get there at the end of the first quarter.

You look at the scoreboard, and it says Lakers 40, Knicks 0.

A Knick gets fouled and makes a free throw.

Lakers 40, Knicks 1.

You point out the score to your friend, who is a rabid Knicks fan. He tells you, “The Knicks are winning.”

Would you agree with him? Or would you call him insane?

If he told you instead, “The Knicks are going to win,” would you change your assessment?

If he said instead, “The Knicks are being successful,” again, how likely are you to agree?

Would you not at the very least think that any such claims are extremely premature and that the Knicks have their work cut out for them?

The Real Situation

In the year since product introduction, AMD has sold 150,000 Opterons.

In the same period of time, Intel has sold 6,000,000 Xeons.

That’s a 40:1 ratio, or:.

Lakers 40 AMD 1.

Despite this, there are actually people out there claiming that the Opteron is swiftly conquering the server market. Not all, not most, but some.

Imagine your Knick-fan friend weren’t just a friend, but the radio announcer. Granted, announcers for the home team tend to be pretty biased, but even the biggest homey announcer gives you the score, which these folks . . . forgot.

Would you not question the announcer’s judgement, if not sanity?

Let’s put that another way. Coincidentally, this is about the same ratio as PC to Macs. Would you say that Apple is winning the PC war, too?

Sadly, there’s some who do. Much the same can be said for some Linux fanatics.

Many, probably most, will say that Opterons will do better as time goes on. I quite agree. But if the score next year is Intel 37 AMD 4, does that crown a new winner? Does it make any real difference if this is the competition?

But We’re Beating Itanium!

Don’t be so sure about that. That claim came around the middle of last year, when Intel had only sold a couple thousand of them, and certainly was true then.

The situation has changed.

Intel said it sold about 100,000 Itaniums in 2003, with the vast majority of the sales coming in the last quarter of the year. Let’s say that was 70,000. Odds are the figure for the first quarter the 2004 is at worst not much less than that, and you have Itanium sales that are about the same as Opteron sales.

I don’t doubt Opteron will jump back out ahead, but this is a fake competition. The real conclusion to be drawn from both Opteron and Itanium sales is that both have been insignificant in the mainstream server market.

Those who insist that the comparison is between Opteron and Itaniums are looking for the only battle they can win. Unfortunately for them, that’s not the battlefield. The battlefield is mainstream x86 server sales. That’s where the sales are, that’s where the money is. That’s the standard of comparison for both Opterons and Itaniums.

On the real battlefield, Xeons make both small fry.

But Opterons Are Much Better Than Xeons!

I wouldn’t disagree, but so? So far, that’s been irrelevant in the real game. The money game.

In this competition, it doesn’t matter what you or I or any other spectator thinks. All that matters is what the players on the field do, the people who actually buy servers.

And in the past year, 97% of the people who picked between Xeons and Opterons picked Xeons.

In the next year, will that number change? Sure. In the first quarter of this year, only a little over 95% of the people who picked between the two PC World articlepicked Intel over AMD.

Lakers 40, Knicks 2.

Throughout 2005, maybe the final figure will be 94% or 92%, or if AMD does very well, 90%. I wouldn’t bet on seeing a figure less than that.

Lakers 40, Knicks 4.

The Computing Klan

So why the lack of instant success? The reason for that is typlified by this comment made at the end of this PC World article:

“If I had a comparable box between Intel and AMD, I would probably choose Intel,” he says. “I’m more comfortable with the brand; I’m more comfortable with the support.”

Now, mind you, this isn’t somebody who knows nothing about AMD. The person saying this is running an operation that bought and is running six Opteron servers. He seems pretty happy with the choice. Yet despite all that, he’d still prefer Intel.

This is what AMD is up against. This is why Intel is going to stick x86-64 inside some server chips, to keep people like this from straying, and try to get them back the next go-round.

Call it Intel-bias, -prejudice, even -bigotry. Call it anything you like except nonexistent. This is what AMD and anyone selling Opteron products is up against. From the AMDroid point of view, it’s the computing version of Jim Crow and the Klan.

And they’re not all going to roll over and play dead after glancing at a couple benchmarks. They sure haven’t so far, and they’re not going to anytime soon.

Is that unfair? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, based on one’s perspective, but so what? It is. Welcome to the real world. The people buying the things are the people who count, not the cheerleaders.

BTW, who ever asks a cheerleader for serious advice, anyway???

AMD knows all this. They know it’s going to be a matter of chipping away, one customer at a time, and they know it’s going to be hard.

But AMD also knows something else.

They Don’t Have To Win This Game…

They Don’t Have To Win This Game

AMD knows this isn’t really a sports competition. They’d be in a hell of a lot of trouble if they were; they’ve been competing against Intel for over 25 years and have never beaten them. Even the teams that play the Harlem Globetrotters have a better record than that.

But this is business, not sports. I doubt Pepsi has ever beaten Coke, and 7-Up certainly never has, but they don’t have to win to do well enough to survive and even thrive.

Personally, I prefer Pepsi. More people drink Coke than Pepsi. Does this bother me? Do I hate Coke as a result? Do I go to forums and denounce Coke and its followers? Do I concoct statistics to “prove” that Pepsi is really number one? Do I always assume Pepsi is right and defend whatever they do?

No. You’d think I was pretty weird if I did.

So why is it considered OK in the geek world to do that?

Let me put this to you provocatively:

AMD (at least as an independent company) will never beat Intel in sales.

Apple will never beat PCs.
Linux will never beat Microsoft.

and, just to make it really upclose and personal will never be the #1 computer hardware site.

And the answer to all these questions is “So?” So long as any and all of the above do well enough to continue doing what they’re doing, that’s all that matters.

If You Think This Is An Anti-AMD Article

. . . you didn’t get it. It’s an anti-attitude article, the attitude that this is a game and you “have” a team.

If you think that, and furthermore, have to be on the “winning” side, or have to delude yourself into thinking that you are when reality says quite otherwise, I have but two words to say to that:

Grow up.

This isn’t sports, this isn’t a game.

But if you’re going to treat it that way, at least learn how to keep score.

Email Ed

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