AMD Complicates Its 'Vision' Processor Branding

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AMD's has revamped its attempt to simplify the computer-buying experience because the previous program was, well, not simple enough.

Since 2009, the chip maker has offered up systems based on its chips under its Vision marketing program, which attempts to create a "good, better, best" distinction. Along with a "Vision Basic" distinction, there was a "Premium" brand for systems designed for HD video consumption, an "Ultimate" brand for digital media creation, and a "Black" brand for high-end gamers.

The Vision brand was simple enough for retail associates and consumers to grasp. In fact, AMD Americas marketing vice president Tony Fernandez-Stoll said 80 percent of sales staff at its retail partners were able to explain the distinction between Vision categories. Where the system failed, he said, was within each of those categories.

Because each Vision category was so wide and all-encompassing, there were often significant price deltas, making it too tough for retail associates to explain the differences. Why would a consumer or small business opt for a $699 Vision Premium system when a $599 alternative carried the same branding and ostensibly the same functionality?

That inevitably led to a discussion of "the guts of the system" with the customer, or worse for AMD, the customer opting for the lower-priced alternative. Either way, the Vision goal of simplifying and clarifying the computer-buying process was defeated, Fernandez-Stoll said.

In its place, AMD's new Vision branding carries the letter of AMD's chip family name (E- or A-series Fusion APUs) and a numerical tier from lowest to highest. So instead of Vision, Premium, Ultimate, Black, you have Vision E2, A4, A6 and A8.

Got all that?

AMD suggests that by distinguishing the processor family (such as A or E) and adding numbers from lower to higher, it's simplifying the process for retail buyers and making it more intuitive.

But this is supposed to simplify computer-buying for those not poring over the latest reviews and benchmarks online, for the casual consumer or the small business customer purchasing major vendors' products via retail. But does "Vision A6" really tell a small business owner anything about the computer system?

Really, chip makers are to blame for their own marketing challenges. For more than a decade, they largely distinguished their processors based on the clock speed of the chip. It was simple and intuitive. There was no doubt that 2.5 GHz was faster than 1.2 GHz.

But when clock speeds stopped their rapid ascent into the Gigahertz and chip makers started turning to new ideas (adding cores, integrating graphics capabilities into the chip) to squeeze more performance out of a given system, things got blurry.

Intel responded with Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, Core i3, i5 and i7 branding. AMD responded with Vision.

But neither chip maker, as of yet, offer an intuitive way to communicate the capabilities or advantages of one chip over a competitor. Until they do, these marketing brands that the chip makers say are intended to reduce user confusion will just continue to add to that confusion.

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