Yep, the rumors are true. AMD does indeed intend to do away with the ATI name, eliminating the "ATI Radeon" co-branding the company has steadfastly maintained since its acquisition of ATI. The firm briefed us on its plans late last week and explained several factors influencing its decision.
As one might expect, a major motivator is the fact AMD plans to introduce a range of new products incorporating both AMD microprocessor technology and a Radeon graphics tech on the same chip. The first fruits of the CPU-GPU "Fusion" initiative are slated to arrive soon. "Ontario," which will combine two copies of the low-power "Bobcat" CPU core with Radeon graphics, is slated to ship before the end of the year. The more powerful "Llano" APU, which mates quad Phenom II-class CPU cores with presumably a more capable GPU, is scheduled for the first half of 2011. Obviously, the combination of the firm's CPU and GPU technologies into single-chip products could create some consumer confusion, if folks were to continue to think of AMD and ATI as separate entities—especially if the ensuing marketing messages emphasize the benefits of CPU-GPU integration.
Furthermore, AMD tells us it feels confident in making this change right now because its graphics business is "on a roll," having surpassed rival Nvidia in discrete graphics shipments last quarter, according to analyst estimates, and having secured high-profile design wins with the likes of Apple. Also, the chastening of Intel via its settlement with the FTC gave AMD some extra assurance that the expansion of its brand into graphics wouldn't hurt its relationships with major PC makers.
Of course, such decisions aren't made without market research, and AMD shared a snippet of its internal research on this topic with us. We think it's worth relaying verbatim, in the form of a handsome corporate PowerPoint slide:
The long and short of it is that, according to AMD's own survey results, consumers savvy enough to know something about discrete graphics cards tend to know the Radeon name, they tend to like AMD, and they don't mind seeing the AMD name on graphics cards once they realize AMD merged with ATI. The folks at AMD read those results as "permission" to jettison the ATI brand name.
The plan, then, is to replace "ATI Radeon" and "ATI FirePro" with "Radeon" and "FirePro", along with a sprinkling of AMD corporate identity. The badges you see above will be used for systems with discrete Radeon and FirePro graphics cards. The lower row omits the AMD logo, so PC makers shipping Intel-based systems will be able to avoid the oil-and-water combo of Intel and AMD branding, if they wish.
If you just bought an "ATI Radeon" and are proud of that fact, fear not. Existing products, including the Radeon HD 5000 series, will not be renamed. Instead, AMD says the first products to carry the "AMD Radeon" label will be introduced later this year.
The first "Fusion" APUs will participate in the radically simplified "Vision" branding that AMD introduced last fall. That program, when introduced, consolidated a ridiculous constellation of separate badges and stickers for pre-built PCs and laptops into a much smaller number. AMD apparently intends to further consolidate under the Vision banner going forward, although those badges seem to multiply like guppies, so we wouldn't place any large bets on things getting straightforwardly simpler. For one example, look no further than the "ATI Eyefinity" technology; that will be re-branded as "AMD Eyefinity" and otherwise kept intact.
Interestingly enough, the corporate "Fusion" branding program will be coming to an end, as well. The Fusion name apparently won't carry over into APUs, believe it or not.
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