Thursday, March 04, 2004

Marketing that appears to be working

I was sitting in a pub today working on my laptop. There actually was WiFi in the pub, but it was ridiculously priced for pay WiFi, so I was working off line. However, I was writing e-mail for sending later. Someone else came up to me and asked me the following question.

"Have you got a Centrino connection on that laptop"?

I sad that I was working offline, and he went away, but the interesting thing is the brandname he asked about. Intel has been promoting the "centrino" brandname for certain laptops using its chips. Specifically, the laptop has to use the Pentium M, have 802.11b (or 11g) wireless, and use the Intel 855 chipset to use the brandname. Intel has been paying for lots of advertising showing people work wirelessly on its "Centrino" laptops. The point has clearly been to associate the "Centrino" name with 802.11 wireless. Judging by this resonse, it is succeeding. Presumably when the gentleman goes into a computer shop to buy his next laptop, he will ask for a "Centrino" system. Presumably, as far as Intel hopes, this will guide him to high end rather than low end laptops, and also will guide him away from laptops with AMD and other non-Intel chips. If he just asks for a machine with WiFi or "wireless", or "802.11" this won't happen, but this is presumably what Intel is trying to prevent. So good marketing for them. Trying to attach a proprietary name to a non-proprietary product is always fun. (Apple is good at this, too. Bring on airport extreme).

(As it happens, my laptop does satisfy Intel's requirements to be called a "Centrino" system. It has a Pentium M, it has 802.11g wireless, and it has the 855 chipset. However, you won't see the word "Centrino" on it anywhere, and the most prominent brandname is Dell's. (There are small stickers on the front right saying "Intel Inside: Pentium M" and also "Designed for Microsoft Windows XP"). Dell has no wish to promote Intel's brands excessively, I suspect, and Intel is unable to insist upon it. Dell must be Intel's single biggest customer, and Dell must be able to drive a very hard bargain. The big thing that Dell can threaten Intel with is the possibility that they might start offering AMD based machines as well as Intel based machines (or in an extreme case they could switch entirely to AMD, although this is not likely). Intel would obviously be appalled if they did this, so at the moment Dell gets to impose most of the conditions, I think. Competition is a fine thing. Shame it is so much harder to have any kind of similar hold over Microsoft).

Update: It turns out that to be called a "Centrino", a laptop also has to have Intel's own 802.11 hardware, whereas mine has an 802.11g mini PCI card that is Dell branded. Apparently the base (802.11b) configuration of the Dell Inspiron 8600 does use the Intel wireless hardware and so can be called a "Centrino", but this one cannot. That seems unnecessarily complex.

No comments:

Blog Archive