A standard by any other name…

…would still be more about marketing than helping consumers. It has always been a stange phenomenon that ‘standards’ proposed by individual companies can be used to either protect markets or break them open. While they use the same term they are radically different on one important spectrum, openess. A large dominant company will try and propose a ‘standard’ that at some level relies on a proprietary technology or a difficult to implement process. This allows the dominant company to restrict other players ability to compete in the market. Some examples of this in recent times are the discussions between MS and the Sun over open document standards (MSOOXML vs ODF) which is interesting in that it was between two large historically anti-competitive companies, each trying to get a standard from opposite perspectives, MS to control, Sun to compete; another is the “Game” set of standards recently launched by AMD.

“The goal for AMD with the new GAME! initiative is pretty simple: make it easier for PC gamers to buy a system or components that will competently play most modern titles at reasonable quality levels and frame rates.”

The goal is acheived by setting base specs that are able to get a frame rate over 30fps for the latest games at 1280*1024 for Game and 1600*1200 for Game Ultra. This is at least in part a good thing. For the non-enthusiast gamer it can be hard to get a system that is up to spec without some level of guidance and AMD are putting themsleves up as the ‘trusted advisor’ that can give them that level of comfort without too much research. The benefit for AMD for this is it drives the link between their processors and their graphics chips. Considering what they paid to acquire ATI ($5.4B), AMD are launching initiatives like this to drive some synergies.

So within that market of users that want to be able to play the latest games but do not want to spend the effort to research they will take the simple AMD Game labelled system, which gives AMD the revenue from the processor, the graphics card, and probably a kickback from the system board or system manufacturer for the labelling. Good for them if it works, and it takes the focus away from raw processor speed in an environment where AMD is trailing.

The problem for them is that it is very easy for Intel to launch a competing ‘standard’ using Intel and NVidia. Intel is in a powerful position here because they can wait and see whether it works before they do it themselves; they already have some lingering value from the “Intel inside” branding; they are much better at marketing than AMD; and is not losing money and revenue.

There is a good analysis on the details of AMD Game on PC Perspective.