“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once asked.A lot, if you’re in the business of selling CPUs and video cards, according to a survey of supposedly savvy buyers by market research firm In-Stat.
Puzzled by research that suggests customers are finding it harder to make a buying decision, the company sent off an e-mail questionnaire to about 500 of its pool of 16,000 early technology adopters, people who in theory ought to be able to distinguish between products branded by AMD, Intel, IBM, nVidia and ATI.
Apparently, many of them don’t.
Product brands were associated with the wrong manufacturer as much as 50 per cent of the time, according to report author Ian Lao.
Graphics processor brands GeForce and Radeon (made by nVidia and ATI respectively), were among the best with greater than 40 per cent recognition rates, but Lao found similarities in product names such as Fusion and CoreFusion, which are confusing customers.
“As far as the average man on the street, they know the Intel company name, the AMD company name, they know the Pentium name,” said Lao, “But when you say Core to the average man on the street, are they thinking fruit, apple core?
“If you put it in the context of technology they probably still don’t have much of a much of a reference that is an actual Intel product – even the technology adopters, the people that are supposed to be more plugged in.”
Lao wouldn’t give many details of the survey, but he was willing to say that only 48 per cent of respondents correctly identified Core 2 and Core 2 Duo as Intel’s desktop processors.
A whopping 45 per cent said they didn’t know the maker or the processor’s purpose.
“We look at this as a trend, because if the early adopters are confused – and these are the people that are a little more plugged into the system as far as being technically oriented – the man on the street would find it even more difficult.”
The problem of properly naming consumer computer products has been troubling the IT industry at least since the creation of Moore’s Law.
There are a number of factors buyers could (or should) take into consideration when choosing a CPU or video card: for a processor, the number of cores, its clock speed as expressed in gigahertz, its front side bus speed in megahertz, the size of the L2 cache, the size of the L3 cache, the chipset and the socket type. For a GPU, the speed of the processor, size of memory, memory speed . . .
So in 2002 AMD began numbering its chips, hoping buyers would realize, say, an Athlon 3000 processor was faster than an Athlon 2800. In 2004, Intel followed suit with a three (now four) digit system, on top of the familiar Pentium brand, which has had models 4, D and M.
Lao believes AMD’s Opteron, Athlon, Sempron and Turion brands are simpler than its competitors.
In-Stat’s survey, though, suggests the strategy isn’t perfect. Certainly the creation of multiple-core CPUs hasn’t helped.
Quick now, name the companies that have the following brands: Core Duo and Dual-Core, nForce and iForce, Quadro and Quattro, Xilleon and Xeon.
(Answers: Intel and AMD, nVidia and Sun Microsystems, nVidia and Corel [and Audi], ATI and Intel).
It’s not only CPUs that have the problem, said Brian McClean, corporate sales manager at Plug & Play Systems, a Shelburne, Ont., system builder. “We’ve even found it hard at times with Intel motherboards,” he said.
Doug Cooper, Intel’s country manager here, could not be reached for comment.
Executive sometimes troubled
Ron Meyer, AMD’s divisional manager for channel validated solutions, said his company tries to be consistent in its numerical branding, but acknowledged that the naming of some companies’ products gives him trouble.
Even Jim Estill, CEO of distributor Synnex Canada agrees the naming and numbering of PC products has become troublesome for buyers.
“People knew more in the past because it was necessary to know more,” he added, but he isn’t sure how vendors can easily make things clearer.
Despite millions spent on marketing, “the message is getting lost,” insists In-Stat’s Lao.
“I would recommend that vendors try and align their branding with usage.” He points to the car industry, where a Toyota Camry is aimed at a different market than the Corolla. Automakers do a better job with multi-tier products than technology firms, he said.
“(IT) companies need to treat their brands as high-value assets. Maybe some have not.”