Articles: CPU

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Part 8: Performance, from the Marketing Point of View

If you have read the previous chapters carefully, you know what I am going to say now: PowerPC970 is a well-made successful processor. It is good in some areas, and the best in others. And there is no area where this processor would lose evidently to the competitor solutions. So, we can expect a high level of performance from PowerPC970, at least no worse than current chips from AMD and Intel do. We will see the performance results shortly.

Right now I’ve got a lyrical deviation for you: however excellent and potentially winning the processor architecture features are, you have to do one most important thing about it. You have to sell it to somebody. That’s the reason why the folks from the marketing department usually determine the launch schedule for a particular product, rather than the engineering team. If you think the engineering component is paramount, I can remind you of one striking example: DEC. This corporation was a well-known developer and inventor of many efficient technical solutions, but it slipped once. They didn’t pay attention to marketing technologies that would help to sell its solutions (best in the world at that time). Note, best from the technical point of view! The outcome was sad, although quite natural. The developer of one of the fastest microprocessors of that day (by the way, it was the legendary first 64-bit Alpha processor) went bankrupt and was bought by Compaq (that merged with Hewlett-Packard later). DEC was an example company in designing high-performance systems, but proved to be too weak for this harsh business world. They thought their excellent products would sell good enough without any marketing. Regrettably, this was not so. Most customers are not specialists in computer technologies: they are professionals in other areas. So, they need someone to tell them why this very product is exactly what they need. And it is the marketing department of any company that does the telling.

No doubt, Apple learned these simple truths long ago. I would even say that marketing has traditionally been Apple’s strong point: they used to come up with ever more ingenious ways to promote their products. The new microprocessor and the new platform immediately became the focus of the intensive marketing work. And that is when a small, but very unpleasant event happened.

One of the trickiest nuances in the marketing campaign for any product is its comparison to the potential competitors. Of course, you must tout your product as good as you can. It is also clear that you need to stay politically correct, at least seem to be like that. If you are trying to point at the deficiencies of a competing solution, you cannot lie. Otherwise, if you get caught on that, people would become very negative to your company and to your products. That’s psychology. So, they will believe you until you are exposed lying. Accordingly, the marketing department cannot lie openly, as it could ruin the company’s image. I think these are all well-known truths.

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