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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  • route66 - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link


    I like how you validate your purchases by saying buying overpriced computer equipment gives the world more computing superpower to help predict deadly storms.
  • TheInvincibleMustard - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    I in no way attempted to "validate" my purchases by saying that my purchase of a 7800GTX allowed the Earth Simulator to gain another 10FLOPS, and I don't know where you got that notion from my post ...

    What I find sad is that some people who responded to me thought that they were agreeing with the OP when in fact they were actually agreeing with me -- the OP said that there is no tangible benefit from going from (say) a 6800Ultra to a 7800GTX and I countered that there was indeed a tangible benefit, irregardless of whether that benefit is justified by the extra $300 purchase price or not.

    If people want to argue questions of relative worth, then that is a completely separate topic. Is it worth spending $300 for an extra 5fps? For some people, no, but for others, yes -- no matter if it is "worth" it to you or not, you must agree that there is a benefit, however small, or else you just come across as ignorant.

    To the person who stated that his X800XT PE was able to do what I do with my 7800GTX and WoW, is that also including transparency AA? If it is, then I retract my statement about "good luck in that quest", but I was not aware that you could enable transparency AA on an X800-class card in a game that uses it a lot (eg, WoW) without a fairly significant drop in framerates (on the order of 10-15%) ... if it works for you, then congrats, and I feel more knowledgable that it is indeed possible to have playable framerates on a non-7800GTX card (though, again, we could argue as to whether the 7800GTX provides a higher minimum, and that leads back to the argument that there is a tangible benefit).

  • RandomFool - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    if you seriously believe that upgrading to the fastest and best thing every two months then you are retarded. There's no point in upgrading just becasue you can upgrade, it's a waste of money. IMO it's not worth it to upgrade unless your current system is limiting you, and it sounds to me like your system is fine you're just obsessed with seeming cool with your fancy computers. But if you can justify spending a ton of money for 10 fps in a game and so you can tell people you've got the uber-mega-1337 system with everything turned on go ahead.
  • TheSloth - Friday, October 7, 2005 - link

    I just picked up a 7800GTX and x2's about two weeks ago, and I don't think it was splurging at all. Up until then I'd been using my old HP with an integrated GeForce4 MX440. Upgrading to a mere 6800 would be inefficient, because the 7800 rapes it and isn't that much more. I spent good money built myself a system that I won't have to replace for a few years. Even my old rig, which wasn't even good at all when I got it 3 years ago could play HL2 and WoW, not well though. I expect several years of happy gaming on my new rig, and that justifies the cost
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    I run WoW on my 2405 @ 1920x1200 with all the options on full with an X800XT PE, and get very playable framerates...
  • Quiksel - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    too bad you sound like one of the guys that has more money than brains, as mentioned above... :rolleyes back:

    And don't even start to get on your soapbox about how scientific computing needs all the UBER GHZZZZ that hasn't been invented yet, as if everyone here doesn't already know that.

    You're just a gamer... a gamer that is trying to justify an incredibly wasteful appetite for spending lost of money on an increasingly agressive upgrade cycle. You're not a scientist, you're just a consumer.

    So stop preaching. You're just one of the sheep.
  • xsilver - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    you are very right.... however there is the small group of people that run SLI 7800gtx's on a 17"lcd, or even worse, 17" crappy CRT

    there are more examples of idiotic computer matching but i think you get the idea

    dont get me wrong, I agree with you, just trying to point out what the OP probably meant
  • deadlock - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    I run two 7800GTXs on a 19" LCD, which has the same resolution of 90% of the 17" LCDs out there.

    At 1280x1024, with 16x AA and 16x AF, modern games slow to a crawl on my system. The F.E.A.R demo, for example, runs at about 5fps. Basically unplayable.

    Modern hardware has a long way to go before it can play every game with everything maxxed out. Until that day comes, there will always be an argument for using SLI on most modern setups (even with a 17" LCD), and you will never have redundant power.

    The value argument is something else, but "value" has never been a word associated with the ultra high-end anyway. Also questionable is the sense in spending so much on two high-end graphics cards but still use a 17" monitor, but doing so is their prerogative and I am just trying to point out doing so on a 17" monitor is by no means pointless.
  • TheSloth - Friday, October 7, 2005 - link

    Sir, what are you doing to your system. 1280x1024 with maximum setting on the fear demo whould run with at least 60 fps with one 7800.... dear god....
  • bob661 - Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - link

    If you think really hard about it, no one actually NEEDS a computer at home. What wouldn't get done if there were no computers at home? Bills can be paid without one, shopping can be done without one, and even entertainment can done without one. That said, people that buy computers can be said to have "have more money than brains". That $400-$1000+ spent on a computer could be dropped into savings or added to a retirement fund. Computers are a luxury.

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