Watch out world, AMD is going to launch solid state drives (SSDs) with their own branding soon.
It seems that AMD continues to bet on their AMD Radeon brand for expanding in to the consumer PC market. From Radeon-branded memory modules for desktop PCs and notebooks (from Patriot, VisionTek and XFX), to the AMD Radeon RAMDisk application from Dataram, AMD started expanding the Radeon brand into new component categories. From the looks of things, AMD isn’t satisfied with just two new products, and obviously didn’t want to slow down from reaching their VISION of making a PC system with all AMD branded components. To fix this, they added SSDs, but there are just a few questions that have yet to be answered.
First question: who will make them? AMD doesn’t have a memory division to support the R&D needed to make their own memory products and Spansion was spun off around 7 years ago. It’s easy to narrow the list down to a small number of players, but there are not enough hints to pick a specific company. Then there is the most important question, why bother to make your own?
As AMD is keen to position these AMD memory products to fill the missing parts in their consumer PC platforms, so finding ODM partners for off-the-shelf parts with their own branding would have shortest time-to-market with the lowest cost. So it’s a “pure marketing decision” that will hopefully bring in money. They have the products and they have the existing brand, so AMD will naturally use platform compatibility, stability and probably ‘platformance’ as selling points. AMD can also bundle several Radeon branded products to raise consumer awareness about these new products as well as the new-and-expanded AMD Radeon brand.
Marketing however is not traditionally a strength at AMD, especially since they laid off most of their product marketing people and outsourced to some PR firm who probably doesn’t have a clue, there are some worrying signs. The most prominent sign would be the “Good, Better, the Best” rating system from the AMD Memory module launch presentation about a year ago. It was aimed at “simplifying the purchase decision by not telling you any technical details”, a tactic that often annoys the targeted enthusiast market.
This rating system doesn’t give a clear sign of what to expect on the different price points, especially for memory and SSDs with a bunch of differentiating factors that are well hidden in the hard specifications. For SSDs, these factors would include types of NAND flash (SLC/MLC/eMLC), SSD capacity, SSD controller used, number of I/O channels, etc., none of which are addressed in AMDs rating system. The only upside of this system would be conveying to the customers that there is a range of choices, but most know that from the price. Over simplifying things doesn’t help anything, it just creates a lot more confusion and makes it hard to differentiate AMD products from other brands.
The next question is given the series of pure marketing decisions to enter the ever-changing and low margin memory and SSD markets, why bother in the first place? Although we don’t quite believe in the saying that AMD is about to enter system integration business, but they could if they wanted to. AMD is going to be making servers in a few years, are PCs and gadgets (read tablets and smartphones) going to follow? Will they be as stupid as Microsoft and turn the friendship of current OEM partners in to hostility? We really doubt they are this dumb, especially since many of the top AMD brass come from an OEM background.
It’s not impossible for AMD to continue this marketing-oriented path of decision making and attempt to mandate the use of Radeon branded products to OEMs and SIs to meet future AMD VISION sticker requirements. It is likely that they will provide reference designs to different levels in the “Good, Better, the Best” system in the future, and throw in some savings on memory and SSDs when building branded platforms. Sarcastically speaking, if this kind of plan is carried out successfully, then what we will be seeing is another Apple, but without the software, design, and company scale to make much of a market impact. No matter which way AMD goes, we feel that it’s not a good way to go.
Keep an eye out for these products as they will soon appear on the shelves of your local computer store or in any major e-tailers. The author sincerely hopes that AMD doesn’t create another round of confusion for customers, but the marketing strategy doesn’t encourage us much. <sarcasm> And who knows if AMD will launch AMD Radeon-branded PSUs or even AMD Radeon-branded chassis next time? Think of the fire red gradient on the Radeon brand, would look nice with black, and probably gold or silver trim too… </sarcasm> S|A