Tom is one of the Product Managers at CCL responsible for CPUs, Graphics Cards and Storage amongst other ranges. With his finger on the pulse of the technology retail channel he is ideally placed to provide an insight into the inner goings on of the big names behind the products we all enjoy.

Decent product launches are a rare and wonderful experience for everyone working in the IT channel. There is nothing that compares to the buzz and excitement around the next killer product that everyone wants to get their hands on. The excitement of the first cards arriving in store, the first cards arriving with customers and reading all the reviews around the internet singing the praises of the latest and greatest.

The issue is this; these days hardly anyone remembers how to do a proper product launch. They type where the product is desirable, not over-priced and actually available. Anyone who has been following the enthusiast grade hardware for any length of time will already have a hatred for the “soft launch” where a manufacturer launches a product by sending a couple of cards to a review site to generate some hype, but then doesn’t give any to the stores to sell for several weeks or months. This is in my opinion self-defeating, nobody wants to buy the older product as they know it has been replaced by a newer model, yet they can’t actually purchase the new product. By the time the product is available in limited quantities the small amount of demand generate has inflated the price of the product (supply and demand) so much it doesn’t really represent very good value for money.

In the good old days (!) most products were launched with good stock available at the same time the reviews were released, this creates instant demand for the stock available and nobody knows for sure how it will sell so prices do not get hugely inflated in the weeks and months before stock. The immensely popular Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 is a prime example of how to do a product launch.

Nvidia kept their lips as tightly sealed as possible, keeping as much detail close to their chest until the last minute. Stock was available on launch day in good volume with a plan to deliver stock over the coming weeks in decent volumes should the card prove to be popular. They priced the card aggressively to line up below the card it beats on their competitor’s line-up which instantly makes it attractive for anyone punching their rig in the higher echelons of the performance you can achieve today. After the reviews went live it was clear that the GTX 680 was one of the best cards Nvidia have released in recent years and their supply chain swung into action with efforts from Nvidia’s partners such as Gainward, PNY, Point of View, Palit etc. working to bring stock into retailers like CCL in the coming days and weeks after launch. At this point in time the delivery of cards has been managed so well that there is a delivery every day of a good number of GTX 680’s into CCL; just enough to cover the huge demand for this card. Hats off to Nvidia and their partners they really know how to launch a product, because the supply is just keeping up with demand we are not experiencing the jumps in pricing that can happen when the demand outstrips the supply. This is only good for the consumer at the end of the day so has to be hugely applauded.

AMD however have had a recent run of poor product launches, almost the exact example to provide on how not to launch products. Without exception in my recent memory all AMD VGA and CPU launches have been a huge disappointment for both CCL and our customers. Typically AMD will announce a product and send a couple of them out to review at the start of the month but not provide CCL with limited stock until a month after this. All this does is cause customers to call up after reading a brilliant review to be disappointed to know the product is not available to buy for a long period of time, they then usually buy the competing product at this point. Over the course of the month between reviews being released and the product being available invariably there will be a little bit of interest that outstrips supply of the cards on the first day so prices rise, making the product less competitive as the reviews initially suggested and proving a disservice to their customers. Due to the exceptionally long wait between the reviews and the products being available most review sites will have had their reviews removed from their front pages and the launch being long forgotten by the time the cards are actually available. This does no favours to the stores selling the cards or the customers who would have been ideal suited to the new item but had to buy an alternative instead.

Thankfully there are still companies who know how to launch products successfully, poor launches do nobody any good and just serve to keep prices high for weeks after launch. Nvidia need to be commended on bringing back the traditional product launch in 2012.

I would urge anyone to be sceptical of a product that has been launched on review sites but not available to buy and ask yourself this, when it’s available to actually buy would it be reviewed as highly against the competition? More often than not the answer will be no.

Just some food for thought.

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