Anatomy of a Product Launch: Is This A Paper Launch?by Kristopher Kubicki on October 5, 2005 12:25 AM EST
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Anatomy of a Product Launch
February 21st, June 22nd and August 11th were three days that stuck out a little clearer than usual this year. With regard to product launches, they were three days that marked a change for the better with regard to the entire product cycle. These days, of course, marked the launch and shipment of Intel Pentium 6xx, GeForce 7800GTX and GeForce 7800GT.
We actually had the opportunity to witness the GeForce 7800GT launch at a major distributor just to see what all the hoopla was about. A few days prior to the launch, we met with one of our industry friends and took a tour of the shipping warehouse of this distributor. In a corner of the warehouse, isolated by a chain link fence, three pallets of GeForce 7800GT cards sat under black tarps awaiting their launch queue some 65 hours later. Everyone in the facility seemed to know what was under the tarps already, from the product manager to the packaging crew and all the way up to the general manager. This distributor was banking on a repeat of GeForce 7800GTX's launch, and a few days later they got exactly that; a near sell out in just a few hours.
Timing the press release, reviews and ship dates with a product launch is something that most manufacturers have neglected over the past few years. Traditionally, someone from Marketing/Communications will send out the press release as the shipment is getting packaged overseas, and then follow up with media samples immediately after. Sometimes the press from the media samples coincide with the actual date the products arrive in the US, since there is usually a two to three week delay on the media. Larger scale product releases require that the press stay under embargo until a certain date so that they all get a fair shot at reporting the specifics. With bigger and bigger stakes, product managers began to ship these media samples earlier and earlier to get the press earlier - sometimes the press from the initial reviews even makes the box art of the shipping product!
However, the backlash from this regression is apparent in several forms. Primarily, it gives competitors a window of opportunity to ship their product; it also adds to speculation and product confusion. The last thing a manufacturer wants is a distributor that doesn't know the product they are trying to push! Worse yet would be a distributor who reads product specs from the media before the launch briefing!
Will we add October 5 to the list of memorable dates of 2005 - at least with regard to products launching and shipping on the same day? All vendors we've interviewed tell us that there will be no new ATI SKUs on their warehouse floors on the morning of October 5. Some report that they expect shipments within a few days, and others don't really expect shipments for at least a week; and all report that their initial SKUs will be "built by ATI" branded cards. This is not reminiscent of the GeForce 7xxx nor the Intel 6xx launch earlier this year, where the product was literally waiting to be shipped a week before the launch date. On the other hand, those waiting to buy some of ATI's new SKUs won't have to wait long, according to these vendors. Several vendors will happily accept pre orders, although vendors also tell us that the initial shipments of ATI's SKUs are of relatively low volume; at least when compared to the GeForce 7xxx launches of earlier this year.
Well hey, if things don't work out, there's always the incredibly awesome Radeon X800GTO2.