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.

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  • gamara - Monday, October 17, 2005 - link

    From TomsHardware, "... when I called ATI PR manager Patricia Mikula yesterday, she stated that the retail channel should have stock today(10/5). NewEgg and Fry's were named and others should have availability today and at the latest by Thursday."

    Today is 10/17, 12 days past the 10/5 launch of the X1800XL and my local Fry's, listed as one of the available locations, has not seen a single x1xxx SKU delivered. Not even an x1300. They did have a Phantom Edition X850 though. :)

  • TinyTeeth - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    Paper launch or not, I just wonder whether you have tested an X1800XT and will be releasing a review when the NDA is due?
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    ATI's countdown clock on their website is at 15 minutes ATM, so I'm assuming the reviews should start rolling in around 9am ET.
  • TinyTeeth - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    That's great! I personally hope that Anandtech and Xbit Labs have got their hands on the card because I trust them the most and think they give the most qualitative reviews.
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    Update: Just read Extremetech's review, where they also compare an X1800XT 512MB vs the 7800GTX 256MB card. The X1800XT is anywhere from 3 - 20% faster than the 7800GTX, depending on the game. It's slowing in DOOM 3, but that's not surprising. Their comparison of the X1800XL vs the 7800GT was similar to the preview from HardOCP, in which those cards were evenly matched.
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    Well, HardOCP and a couple other sites have reviews up on the 1800XL, and performance is on par with the 7800GT, but no better. Wonder when anandtech will put up their (p)review?
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    Let's face it the hype in the PC industry is second to none. Few mfgs. actually deliver products when they claim they will. AMD is a notable exception in the past 6 years delivering virtually on-time every time that I can remember.

    The sad reality is that gullible PC enthusiasts will run right out and buy the latest releases of graphics card, CPUs, Mobos, memory etc. because industry media rave about how great it is and there are enough naive people who belive they can't live without the latest and greatest.

    When you have people willing to go out and spend $400-$1000 every few months for the latest video card, you know these folks have more money than brains. Same applies for CPUs, memory, DFI Land Party Mobos, etc. If there was some TANGIBLE benefit, you might be able to rationaize the expenditure, but there isn't. PC enthusiasts need SLI and Crossfire like they need another hole in thier head... All it's worth is bragging rights. Bragging rights and a $10 bill will buy you a $2 dollar cup of coffee.

    Bottom line is that the PC hardware mfgs. know how gullible PC enthusiasts are and they price their products accordingly. It's like fools waiting in line outside stores to purchase the newest release of the defective Windoze O/S, at midnight...Could anything be more ignorant??? It really makes no difference when a new PC product is PAPER released, there are enough fools out there to buy it when it finally shows.
  • Kegh - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    What difference does it make to you or me or anyone else what "fools" are willing to spend THEIR money on. Just because you (or I) would not spend money on a premium product doesn't mean jack. It's their money, they can spend it any freaking way or for whatever product they want... Get over it people, life's not fair. When you guys rant about "idiots" who upgrade every few months even though YOU don't see a reason for them to do it just makes you sound like your whining, just like a little kid who is jealous of the "rich kid" down the street who has all the popular toys.

    Rant off....
    Can't we all just get along? :)
  • SimonNZ - Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - link

    I agree, so what if i want to upgrade to a SLI for my gamming rig? my other hobbies are alot cheaper and I earn my own money, I agree totally you just sound like a little kid who wants the new toys. Yes ALOT of people wont see any benefit in running a 7800GTX or a X2 but their are some people who will and as long as they are willing to pay for it then their is a market.
  • TheInvincibleMustard - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    Exactly right, because there's no tangible benefit in upgrading a 6800Ultra to a 7800GTX ... Hell, I'm going to be upgrading to an X2 and 2x1024MB of RAM in the near future here (from an o/c'd 3000+ and 2x512MB), but I guess I won't see a tangible benefit from that, because you state that there's no tangible benefit to purchasing the "latest and greatest" especially since I just upgraded two months prior ... thanks for saving me several hundred dollars! *rolleyes*

    Show me another video card on the market that can run WoW at 1920x1200 (my Dell 2405FPW's native resolution, which I suppose was also a stupid upgrade from my 19" LCD if you include monitors) with AA, AF, transparency AA, everything on full, and still maintain a playable frame rate ... that's right, good luck in that quest. If for some reason you equate "enjoying a game to a full extent" with "bragging rights" then yes, I guess it's bragging rights for me. I suppose I was also stupid for purchasing an MX1000, or an Audigy 2, or my Logitech Z-680's back in the day ... wow, guess I've made a bunch of stupid purchases.

    On a much larger scale, did you know that there really is a tangible benefit to greater computing power? And that faster and faster computers are being built all the time? For billions of dollars? And researchers (especially in the fields of climate prediction and forecasting) are craving orders of magnitude more processing power than what is currently available? Shame on them, you say, it's overpriced and doesn't offer a tangible benefit! Tell that to the thousands of people's lives that were saved in the past year due to accurate prediction of future storm paths ...

    If everyone had an attitude like yours, we'd still all be running on 8086's (if even that) because manufacturers would be too scared to spend the money on R&D since no one would purchase their new products. Where do you get your logic from? If there was no tangible benefit, people wouldn't buy the stuff! You seriously think that someone is spending upwards of $4000 on a system to pick up chicks or something? It's not a question of relative worth (ie, price/performance), it's a question of is there some benefit to the upgrade, however miniscule, and I (and many others) would argue that there is.


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