In case you missed it, last week we were granted the opportunity to speak with AMD’s Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing, Mr. Henri Richard. Henri is definitely an enthusiast, and because of this experience he has an intimate knowledge of AMD’s products, their position in the marketplace, and how they compare to the competition. In the first part of our interview, Henri discussed his passion for gaming and computer hardware, as well as the Athlon 64 FX and its unlocked multiplier, overclocking, multi-core CPUs, and AMD’s 64-bit software transition. The following is the last half of our telephone interview with Henri, if you missed the first half, you might want to head back to the first article.
FiringSquad: AMD’s Athlon 64 processors have been criticized by some for being too expensive, especially in light of AMD’s core market: retail rather than OEM. What steps are AMD taking to address this, or do you see it as a non-issue?
AMD's Henri Richard
Well AMD has always had a reputation for delivering great value, and we will continue that with Athlon 64. Although to a certain degree because the Microsoft OS [Windows 64-bit] has not been released yet…you know some of the value of AMD-64 has not been unleashed at this point in time but it will get unleashed when the OS is available. One of the things that we’re doing is we started with, you know, a very high performance product and the higher speed grade because we wanted to make sure that we had established the brand at the right level in the marketplace.
What we’re doing now is that we’re going to have more speed grades available than what we initially came out with on the Athlon 64 platform. And one thing is that the range of products available both, you know, faster processors than the current Athlon 64 3200+ and also lower processors than the current 3200+ so the price range available on Athlon 64 will be much broader and there will be volume.
I know there’s the perception that it’s still a very high-end part but that will go away.
FiringSquad: Obviously $700+ is a lot to pay for a processor, but at the same time there are many enthusiasts that like the features present in the Athlon 64 FX. Does AMD have any plans to release slower Athlon 64 FX models or would something like an Opteron 144/146 be the only solution?
Well, the FX is the high-end product and there’s only one place to go which is up. And you also know that our strategy on FX, uh, if you don’t let me make it clear is that we will never have multiple speeds. So in other words, you know, when the FX 53 will be introduced the FX 51 will essentially be end of life and so on. So the whole purpose of the Athlon 64 FX brand is to always be the fastest thing out there and therefore, you know, price point is probably going to always stay up there because it is the premium part for the people that don’t want any compromises.
FiringSquad: Do you feel the Athlon 64 infrastructure also plays a role in bringing prices lower? For instance, VIA has only recently announced a chipset with integrated graphics, and many motherboard manufacturers only offer one or two Athlon 64 boards.
Well uh, [pauses] the AMD infrastructure has always been very competitive. With Athlon 64 right now, because of the recent introduction of the part, because it is a fairly high-end part on which we haven’t, you know, made available to the market in multiple speed grades, uh, the volume while actually slow compared to the overall PC market, but as we broaden the range of Athlon 64 parts available then it will go up very quickly and at that point, we’ve made it very clear that in the second half of ’04 we intend to ship more 64-bit processors than 32-bit processors.
And when that kicks in then we get the scale of economies and you’ll see the infrastructure go down. We’re also moving, you know with the 939-pin packaging to unbuffered DIMMs and that’s going to help to bring the cost of the platform down and then again, moving to UMA
(Unified Memory Architecture, basically he’s saying integrated platforms –ed)
, so we have the steps to bring the AMD-64 platform to lower and lower price points.
Also there are some very exciting technologies that are being put out there in some of the chipsets in the UMA solutions and we’re really bringing a level of performance on UMA that was never available on prior architectures.