Please feel free to visit Rahul's blog at http://voodoopc.blogspot.com/
As AMD’s Executive Vice President and Chief
Sales and Marketing Officer, Henri Richard knows
every last detail of AMD's business. Originally from France, he is a
self-proclaimed tech geek, builds his own systems and is an avid
gamer. He has endless energy and is described as one of the hardest
working people at AMD. He is a global traveler and understands all
aspects of semi-conductor global market trends and regional needs.
There’s no denying that his love for technology and finer
things has had a very positive impact on AMD’s business over the past few
years. Richard has been a key part of AMD's unprecedented business
transformation, set in motion by Hector Ruiz to restructure AMD to better focus
on customers, 64-bit x86 innovations, and high-growth and emerging markets. Henri
Richard has been crucial in helping AMD grow into a market and
technological leader and how to act like one.
I wrote this interview because it's not often that I can offer first
hand insight to how some of our partners operate. I usually take
time to discuss the latest technology with all of our partners, so I
thought it would be interesting to share some of the dialog we had with
AMD recently. I had a chance to sit
down with Henri Richard to discuss the latest happenings at
Sood: It’s pretty impressive when
one of the top executives at AMD is capable of building his own PC. What are the specs of your system that you’re
currently running at home right now?
first PC I ever built was a Sinclair! I guess it shows my age. I like to
personally evaluate the technology in the market and thus I refresh all of my
machines (I keep about eight systems running) on a quarterly basis. My current
standard system is based on our FX or Opteron CPUs, on x32 NVIDIA based
motherboards, with no less than 2 GB of RAM, Raid 0 with two or more Western
Digital Raptor drives and SLI video technology.
Sood: Which game got you into computer gaming to begin with and what
about it drew you in?
started with Microsoft Flight Simulator and actually own every single release
of this title. I enjoyed the ability that it provided to familiarize oneself
with flying on instruments, something you typically can’t do without a large
budget in the real world. I then went from Flight Sim to Combat Sim and then to
FPS. The real passion came with online multiplayer mode. It’s really a lot of
fun to be able to compete with thousands of people around the world. Being in
sales, you can imagine that I am a reasonably competitive individual.
Sood: Many years ago AMD was
considered a lower-priced alternative to Intel, and since the launch of the AMD
Athlon 64 we have seen a shift in your brand position. This was never more apparent then when AMD
launched its AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors. In what seemed as an obvious effort to thwart
AMD sales, Intel dropped its own prices by 50%, yet AMD didn’t budge. Are your
retailers starting to see the light?
have made huge progress in two dimensions: brand equity and brand
consideration. Of course, we offer a
better value than the competition across all the various segments, so we are
the smarter choice. But we also have
become the better choice, thanks to a clearly superior technology. This is
reflected in our retail market share which keeps climbing, particularly in the
dual-core segment where the competition offers a clearly inferior product.
Sood: Not surprisingly AMD’s
implementation of dual-core has been very successful. To what do you attribute
the success of the product?
Athlon 64 X2 is the result of an architecture that started from the ground up
as a multi-core architecture. The competition is trying to patch an obsolete
architecture with huge caches. But in
fact, they can’t overcome the bottleneck of the front side bus and the memory
latency performance disadvantage. And frankly, their power envelope is completely
out of control. That’s becoming a key factor of success for AMD64.
Sood: I have watched with great
interest as AMD’s stock price has continued to rise throughout 2005 and into
2006. How does it feel to have the
fruits of your labor finally pay off?
we are happy but not satisfied. Our quest is all about bringing choice and
balance to the marketplace. No one needs or wants a market dominated by a
monopolist holding 90% of the volumes, revenue or profits of an industry. It’s
unhealthy and clearly it stifles innovation. So until we bring the industry in
balance, I won’t be satisfied. Of course, the fruits of success are there, but
it’s not what gets me up in the morning. I want to be able to say that I helped
the PC business to break free!
Sood: Intel has been plopping a
ton of money in their VIIV launch, yet many of their customers, including
Voodoo, don’t understand what it is all about. What do you think about what Intel is trying to accomplish with VIIV,
and what are AMD’s future plans around AMD LIVE! to compete against it?
is fairly fresh but it seems to me that VIIV is nothing more than a Media
Center Edition PC with a new logo at this stage. Long term, the competition is
attempting to create a closed environment, where they capture most of the
profit and where they displace with a VIIV PC the incumbent devices in your
living room. We prefer to think that an open platform, where the PC is a senior
member of your home network of devices, all collaborating and interacting with
each other is preferable. That’s the AMD Live! concept. And true to our
partnership strategy, everyone will be able to collaborate and add value to the
AMD Live! platform.
Sood: From what I have seen AMD
Opteron is untouchable on the server and workstation space. How successful has the AMD Opteron been since
it launched in 2003 and where is Opteron going for 2006 and beyond?
Opteron processor has redefined the notion of performance-per-watt in the
server space. And it continues to gain market share as more and more customers
move away from the competition’s products, which have both performance and
power consumption problems. Going forward, we will continuously add RAS
features to the platform while leveraging the AMD64 architecture advantage,
which actually increases with the number of cores or the number of sockets.
Sood: It seems that the media is
pretty excited about Intel’s “Conroe” core. How does AMD plan to keep their
lead in the desktop space?
it seems bizarre to me that we are seen as keeping a lead in the server space
for at least another two years and at the same time questioned about our lead
in desktop. I see a lot of speculation about the competition, comparing what
they will launch in three quarters to what we have today. But that assumes we
are going to stand still, and that’s not the case.
Sood: What’s it like to run a
company the size of AMD, how do you stay ahead of the competition?
are small compared to our competition. So my motto is that unless I am willing
to work harder, longer and smarter than the competition, I can’t even the odds.
Our size allows us to be more friendly, more nimble and more personable, and
customers really appreciate this. But ultimately, it’s our integrity and
dedication to our customer’s success that is our enduring differentiation.
Sood: Emerging high-growth markets
are a relatively new strategic area for AMD, given the company’s 37-year
history. Can you briefly explain why
this is important to AMD and what you believe the future holds for AMD in these
their growth potential, these markets are attractive because, unlike mature
markets, they are typically more open to competition. Local players want to
offer choice, governments are more involved in the development of the IT
business, and consumers and businesses are equally keen to make the smarter
choice as the average budget for IT spending is smaller than in mature markets.
For all these reasons, AMD is thriving in these markets and I believe that we
have the opportunity to be a leader in bringing IT technology to these
countries. Our 50x15 and OLPC (One Laptop per Child) initiatives are great
examples of the role responsible IT companies can and must play in bridging the
digital divide and in bringing innovation that matters to these markets.
Sood: What are the current tech
gadgets you are using right now?
now, I am regularly using the new XBOX 360, the Motorola RAZR, Apple’s iPod, and
of course my BlackBerry.