AMD64 logo program launched

PC manufacturers expect a new marketing campaign announced by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) on Tuesday to improve awareness of the company's 64-bit processors among consumers and corporate buyers.

The campaign will put an AMD logo on PCs, software and peripherals, identifying them as being "ready for AMD64." It is being launched to raise awareness of the platform, which includes the AMD Opteron processor for servers and workstations, and the AMD Athlon 64 processor for desktops and mobile PCs. The Athlon 64 processor is due to be launched on Sept. 23, the Sunnyvale, California, company said in a statement.

In addition to running new 64-bit applications and operating systems, the AMD64 platform can also run older software written for the 32-bit x86 processor architecture. This means users can upgrade their hardware while continuing to use legacy applications, AMD said.

The campaign will help desktop, notebook and server manufacturers like Evesham Technology Ltd. of Evesham, England, push AMD products in a market where Intel Corp.'s name is far better known, said Carolyn Worth, a spokeswoman for Evesham.

"The general public have never had the opportunity to consider an alternative to Intel -- they just see the bing bong man on TV! AMD hasn't been so in their face, and it'll come down to how they put it across," Worth said.

"There aren't that many ways that people can enjoy 64-bit at the moment, because most things are still designed for 32, but the software is developing. ... People who play games will know about 64-bit, and there's always the go-faster brigade who just want the highest numbers," she said.

The campaign may also make AMD more attractive to the business market, Worth said. "The more savvy business and education buyers see the price advantage as very attractive, but many institutions are reluctant to move from Intel," she said.

Mesh Computers PLC of London sells mostly AMD-based desktop and notebook computers. Its consumer and games-playing customers tend to know about AMD, marketing executive Nick Walter said Tuesday, but the campaign may shift ingrained attitudes in the business sector.

"Certainly the corporate sector knows and trusts the likes of Dell, and it's tough for us to come in with a viable offer," he said. The consumer market, too, "has been very much Intel-focused, but AMD has managed to take a massive market share. It can almost match on speed and it's the cost factor that wins," Walter said.

Early adopters have been waiting for 64-bit for some time, and it will be a trickle-through process as innovators take it on and other consumers follow, Walter said.

"There will be 64-bit applications available by Christmas. A ton of games will be 64-bit compatible, and so if consumers want to buy a PC that will be relevant for two or three years, they'll need to start considering 64-bit. AMD have priced (their processors) where we'll be able to make it accessible across most of the market," he said.

On the server side, AMD faces more of an uphill struggle in terms of gaining credibility and traction, and the logo campaign will just be one side of a push to improve AMD's profile, Thomas Meyer, an IDC server market analyst, said Tuesday.

AMD "needs to make a name for itself in servers," Meyer said. IBM Corp.'s recent decision to launch a line of AMD servers will help raise its profile, he said, and Microsoft Corp. recently said it would work to develop 64-bit versions of its software that will support AMD processors. [See "IBM rolls out Opteron server, Linux database clusters," July 30, and "Microsoft confirms Windows Server 2003 for Opteron," April 9.]

However, while the seamless transition from 32-bit to 64-bit processing sounds good, "customers aren't crossing the chasm that easily," Meyer said. With most companies coming out of two years of budget cuts in IT spending, they may be in a renewal cycle, but many are likely to go for what they see as the safe option, he said.

Initially, AMD will be competing against Intel's 32-bit servers, until it establishes an installed base and good reputation, and can then move to the 64-bit space, Meyer said.

AMD needs to concentrate on showing the cost benefits, reliability and scalability of its processors, Meyer said. "They need to get the A-brand server manufacturers and the application developers on their side. It takes a lot of time to create credibility. But creating hype and keeping the visibility up will help too," he said.

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