AMD has been kicking butt this year, arguably besting Intel on performance and—according to Jon Peddie—passing NVIDIA on graphics sales. They are a Wall Street Darling, and their CEO Lisa Sue has become an industry superhero (even a false rumor of her leaving for IBM not only stirred up the market but was positive for Su). Behind her success has been an excellent team with a market-leading tight focus, almost no distractions, and market-leading execution.
But one of the biggest moves for AMD was bringing on board Alienware founder Frank Azor to lead their gaming effort. This hire was a huge investment but one that should pay off handsomely because Frank is one of the most influential and powerful executives in the gaming and PC space. Frank has not only been a founder of modern PC gaming but one of its biggest influencers and one of the most powerful people in Dell Technologie—which is arguably the most powerful technology vendor in the world.
Let’s talk about why this hire is potentially game-changing.
Markets Are About Influence
Influence power isn’t just true of consumer markets. IT vendors also use influencers heavily—in fact often more heavily than consumer vendors because influence is far more effective dollar for dollar than marketing is in that segment. Also, surveys I’ve done rank strong influencers well ahead of any other marketing tool in terms of getting products into consideration.
Now Frank being part of AMD will reduce his influence somewhat, but this move comes at a time when Intel is unusually weak due to bad management decisions by their prior CEO and, as noted above, AMD had closed on NVIDIA. So, AMD’s influence is unusually strong.
The combination should give AMD some powerful additional advantages as Frank takes over gaming solutions for AMD but, as an ex-OEM, it also suggests some future moves that AMD hasn’t been able to make before.
Developing Sustainable Market Leadership
One of the ways to establish and drive market leadership is to come up with reference designs that sales partners can adopt and bring to market. Also, as Microsoft has demonstrated with Surface, there is the option of launching an AMD line to go around Intel’s historical lock on certain PC segments to drive industry direction. While the latter move is still unlikely, Frank brings both capabilities to the table, and his Alienware designs have often defined the gaming PC space.
Recently NVIDIA showcased similar chops with their ACE workstation project which arguably changed the dynamic for portable workstations, and Frank has similar skills and capabilities, allowing AMD to push back with equally compelling unique designs.
One of the most powerful efforts that Intel had internally was their PC design competition effort—something that unfortunately lived and died with Pat Gelsinger who now runs VMware and is also considered, like Lisa Su, to be one of the best CEOs in the world.
Were Frank to resurrect that effort and move to demonstrate, as he did at Alienware, what PC Design should now look like, there is no doubt it could be nearly as powerful and Gelsinger’ s effort. And given VMware isn’t an AMD competitor and was also part of the Dell family, Frank could likely chat with Pat and learn from Pat’s Intel effort how to rock this market.
Companies are made up of people, and the team that Lisa Su has assembled at AMD has changed that company from an also-ran to challenging for the lead in several segments. They pretty much own the high-performance gaming console space, and, with Frank, they have their eyes on gaming. If there were anyone that could take AMD to gaming leadership, it would be Frank Azor, and I’m expecting some pretty amazing things from him now that he’s at AMD. I expect his new group motto should likely be “Carpe diem,” because AMD, with this move, has certainly seized the moment.