I don’t impress that easily. I’ve been at a number of Apple launches, was at the even more impressive Windows 95 launch (which has never been beaten), and I grew up in and around Hollywood.
Most product launch events these days, other than Apple, seem to be more about saving money than in showcasing the products in the best possible light (I was at one the other day that actually had a dead guy outside with a police officer waiting for a body bag). You only have one chance to make a first impression, and while excessive spending is also a problem, starving a launch event seems terribly foolish especially given Apple’s success.
Well, this week AMD’s CMO Nigel Dessau proved that even a parts vendor could step up and do Apple-level amazing. He did this at Paul Allen’s Science Fiction Museum in Seattle with the help of his capable staff, Edelman, HP, and legendary director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids, Machete, and Sin City).
A great deal of Apple’s success comes from the fact that Steve Jobs demands excellence in both Apple’s products and how the company presents them. While there are lots of good products, I think more companies should step up to the kind of excellence Dessau demonstrated this week.
Part of how AMD pulled this off was the venue. The Seattle Science Fiction Museum is an amazing place and they were running both Avatar and Battlestar Gallactica showcases. The building itself is an extremely contemporary structure of free form shapes and metal. Atmosphere is important, which is likely why Apple intends to have launches in its new Cupertino office when that flying saucer-inspired building is complete.
Creating an atmosphere conducive to excitement is important and few, if any, convention centers or hotels have this aspect to them.
Of course the product itself has to be up to this effort. A great event with a mediocre product still won’t do well. This was particularly difficult for AMD because this isn’t a complete product. While Llano (the code name for AMD’s A series of Fusion products) is impressive, it’s actually just a part that would appear in a number of laptop and desktop computers -- increasing the level of difficulty to match an Apple-level presentation.
Dessau solved this problem by making this about the experience. The event spotlighted the application developers who showcased taking smartphone pictures and videos and both editing them instantly to be camcorder quality and turning them into high definition panoramas. It showcased how the next age of video conferencing on the desktop could be vastly improved with in-line video enhancement. Llano will make some of Windows 8’s more compelling -- features like Kinect integration work incredibly well. (Touch really won’t work on a laptop, but hands free gestures could be amazing.)
On this last the idea of being able to do all and more that you can currently do on a touch screen without actually touching the screen was crazy fun to watch. It also suggested our future won’t be constantly smudged screens. (Something we tablet users are beginning to find really annoying).
Dessau closed with a move made famous by Steve Jobs (one more thing) where he brought up Robert Rodriguez. The famed film director talked about how this technology would not only improve future movies but would help create the next generation of top directors.
Rodriguez started out with almost nothing but some VCRs and inexpensive video camera and became one of the most successful directors in the world. He got there largely because of his aggressive use of technology, broad skill set, and his ability to create magic on a budget. He’s kind of a walking example that, in today’s world, someone who has a dream and the willingness to work hard, some core talent, and the drive for excellence can make it big in movies. Or can make it big in anything. He one of those self-made successes that give the rest of us hope.
AMD’s Llano processor was the end result of a critical bet the company gamble made to get AMD out of the shadow of Intel. It gets there by combining graphics with the CPU onto a single well-optimized part to provide a high level of performance with a low level of energy use to get to reliable 10-hour battery life.
HP showcased a number of Llano-based products that proved the part could live up to the promise. However, without a strong launch it likely would have had trouble getting over a lot of the normal weekly noise.
But my point with all of this isn’t AMD or its wonderful new product. It’s that Nigel Dessau demonstrated that it is possible to do a launch event that isn’t dull and boring, that borrows from what made Apple the company, and Steve Jobs the CEO, of the decade. A launch like that can create pride for the product, team and company that pulls it off. Magic is possible outside of Apple, folks just have to want it badly enough and step up to the challenge. Hell, there is even a book out on how to do this in the Jobs style.
Sometimes we all need a little magic.