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AMD/ATI’s channel aftermath

New leadership means chipmaker finally creates a Canadian channel manager

Progress on the merger of processor manufacturer AMD and Canadian graphics maker ATI has been encouraging, according to AMD’s executive vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing.But in an interview last month Henri Richard added that the alignment of two distinctive companies does have its challenges, especially when the main rival in the market is an 800-pound gorilla – Intel – that has dominated the Canadian market.

Now that AMD/ATI employees are settling in under one roof, it is time for new initiatives, Richard said.

The first is to be a customer-centric company and bring best of breed products to market and challenge Intel with a balanced platform, he said.

Richard was quite frank in his views of Intel and the Intel Inside program: He is fundamentally against brand schemes from a single supplier.

“We want to support the customer’s brand, not wrestle it away from them. This is a different (approach) from our rivals who want to strengthen their brand. People do not buy a car because of the spark plugs inside, and it should be the same with PCs. It should be about the best user experience and not the chip inside,” Richard said.

His company has also tweaked its branding strategy to reflect the merger.

The corporate brand will be AMD and the chipset technology, along with consumer electronics offerings, will be labeled AMD as well. However, ATI will remain the brand for all graphics products. Richard said this branding strategy will make it easier on customers, OEM partners and the channel.

Richard has also made some key management decisions. He is leaving Rick Hegberg, ATI’s vice-president worldwide sales, in the same role but with added responsibility for the AMD business.

Each region will have its own channel manager. For the first time AMD will have a Canadian channel manager working in the field, Larry MacIntosh.

“In the Canadian market we had a modest presence, but now (with the ATI merger) we have a platform here where we can set some lofty goals because we have a critical mass of people. I will make a statement to the VAR channel in Canada. We will put the bar very high,” Richard said.

In the past, AMD’s indirect presence in this market meant that its manufacturer’s representative, Mississauga, Ont.-based JSquared Technologies, was the face of AMD in Canada.

That has changed. JSquared will still have a role to play at AMD Canada in helping partners with complex solutions and adding value.

“We are directly involved now and that changes things. I recognize the good work JSquared have done, but there is a new plan going forward with distribution in time zone and in-country presence for better support to our distribution partners,” he added.

AMD will go with a worldwide channel strategy.

“I believe this is a worldwide market and we’ll set terms that are equal around the world. We understand that is a different strategy from many other companies, but we want to treat the channel as a global customer,” he said.

With this strategy, AMD intends to have a small set of large partnerships with companies such as Ingram Micro, Synnex, Avnet and Arrow. “I think it is always a difficult discussion in the channel to have one about Canada and not Mexico,” he said.

Richard added that a worldwide channel strategy helps to eliminate grey market issues.

“When you cut a deal in Hong Kong a fax is sent to Toronto in one second. The reality in the channel is that worldwide business has no secrets. I think it’s a healthier environment when they know we have a worldwide position,” he said.