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A Branding Revolution

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AMD is dropping the ATI brand. Well, it's a start...

The chip maker broke the news in a conference call to journalists on Monday, explaining a process of phasing out has begun which will see the ATI logo disappear from its products by the start of 2011. Interestingly AMD will keep the Radeon, FirePro and Opteron brands, but further consolidation will see client CPU and chipset brands including Live!, Game and the impending Fusion more tightly contained within the Vision buyers' guide. AMD will also be providing OEMs with AMD omitted branding should they wish to twin Radeon or FirePro graphics with Intel CPUs.

AMD kept its reasoning behind the transition short, citing three primary claims:

  • AMD preference triples when respondent is aware of ATI-AMD merger
  • AMD brand stronger than ATI vs. graphics competitors
  • Radeon and FirePro brand awareness and consideration very high
All of which means "Results indicate 'permission' to consolidate under the AMD brand". It's an interesting choice of words and certainly illustrates how cautious the company has been in making this decision. AMD didn't release any hard figures to back up its arguments other than to say they had been formulated from "Recent surveys of several thousand 'discrete graphics aware' respondents in the US, UK, Germany, China, Japan, Brazil and Russia". It wasn't this aspect of the decision where we wanted justification, however, more to the point: why did it take so long?

AMD bought ATI back in July 2006 and, despite numerous rumours that ATI wouldn't be long for this world, continued to pump money into the brand trying to build its profile and increase public awareness. Four years on that seems to have been borne out as the mistake most thought it to be at the time.

Of course AMD will have a simple counter: before the end of 2010 it will launch Fusion - its first single die CPU/GPU - and from here the boundaries between the two product lines are likely to become irretrievably blurred for the casual consumer. Couple that with the ever growing list of non-gaming software using 3D acceleration (from browsers to Photoshop) and the masses really won't care which handles what, just that they do it well. The hardcore gamers will always be prepared to splash out a small fortune on the latest discrete graphics, but with casual gaming and consoles dominating public attention spans (and those of developers due to their relative lack of piracy) they look more niche than ever.

So AMD got it right? Other than the financial waste of keeping the ATI brand going this long and making the more nostalgic among us teary eyed, yes. The problem is its indecision in making this fundamental change is systematic of dragging its heels in arguably far more important territory...

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