AMD Layoffs Maul Marketing, PR Departments

AMD's initial layoff announcement yesterday implied that the dismissals would occur across the company's global sales force. While that may still be true, it has become clear that AMD has slashed its PR and marketing departments in particular. The New Product Review Program* (NPRP) has lost most of its staff and Director of Product Planning, Carell Killebrew, who played an integral role in rescuing AMD's GPU division after the disaster of R600, also got the axe. Key members of the FirePro product team are also gone. None of the staff had any idea that the cuts were coming, or that they'd focus so particularly in certain areas.

An email, purportedly from CEO Rory Read, sheds additional light on the reasons for the cuts.
This action was necessary to rebalance our skillsets, drive to a more competitive cost structure and enable us to fund our key growth areas... Our industry is at an inflection point as new trends emerge around the consumer experience, the breakdown of traditional control points and technology convergence.  It’s clear we have to take aggressive steps to create distinct value for our customers, and must optimize our existing business today while enabling the company to capture future growth.  If we do not take action now, we will miss these opportunities and be squeezed out.
To strengthen our market position, we have to rebalance our skillsets to better align with these market shifts and implement a more competitive cost structure.   Our competitors are serious and significant, and we will take the required actions to beat them... a lower cost base allows us to be more competitive today and to invest back into the business to fuel our “attack” strategies in— low power, emerging markets and the cloud.I will share more insights into our strategy and path forward in my upcoming Worldcast on November 9th
We agree that AMD's competitors are a serious threat, and that the company needs to take serious action, but we're deeply uncertain that slashing the marketing and PR teams is the best way to refocus the company. These two departments may not design products, but they create and maintain vital lines of communication between the company, its customers, and the press.

Severing those lines en masse creates inevitable traffic snarls while assignments are juggled internally, and it risks sending the message that AMD cut staff in certain areas because it doesn't think it'll need to talk about those products going forward.

It's all well and good to say AMD's future lies in emerging markets, low power, and the cloud, but the company's ability to sell current products into those spaces is extremely limited. With Windows 8 about a year away, ARM ramping into servers, and Intel's 22nm Atom coming soon, AMD needs to leverage its current expertise in its core markets to fund any attempt to shift focus. Read's email doesn't mention the need for excellent execution in desktop, mainstream mobile, or graphics. During the company conference call last week, he didn't even acknowledge the launch of Bulldozer, or the upcoming Interlagos parts.

It's all well and good to focus on the future—we just hope Read doesn't accidentally walk off a cliff.

* -- We at Hot Hardware would like to express our sympathy to those of you who've unexpectedly lost your jobs at a difficult time. AMD's marketing and PR teams have always been great to work with, even under difficult circumstances and trying conditions. We sincerely hope this continues to be the case.