AMD CEO sees world where users are in control

The head of AMD forecast that power will shift from IT vendors to customers as more technology choices become available.

The head of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is predicting a seismic shift in the balance of power in both the chip industry and the world of IT as a whole, with influence shifting from vendors to users. The move could particularly benefit the health-care industry, which is still struggling to find ways to move forward with technology.

"We're entering a new era in microprocessor technology where the new phenomenon is choice," chairman and CEO, Hector Ruiz, said. "It'll be the single greatest transfer of power the industry has ever seen from vendor to customer." He was speaking at Oracle's OpenWorld conference taking place in San Francisco, the first time AMD has been prominently featured at the event.

Of course, increased customer choice comes at a price. Users would have to make more technology decisions and would have more confusing advertising claims to sort through, Ruiz said. One of his responsibilities as head of AMD was to ensure that customers had an honest choice.

The bitter rivalry between AMD and chip giant, Intel, has led to both companies engaging in plenty of claim and counterclaim in the past.

In a spoof on the movie The Matrix, always a favorite of technology companies, Ruiz showed a video clip featuring himself playing the role of the film's teacher Morpheus who educates the Neo character, or in this case, a customer called ITo on what's really going on in the world.

To underscore the idea of customer choice, Ruiz turned to other hi-jinks. As he read out a list of AMD partners including Oracle, HP and IBM, he was interrupted by chairman of Dell, Michael Dell, who rushed onstage yelling, "Hold on, Hector, I think you missed someone." For many years an Intel-only shop, recently Dell has changed its tune and begun to offer computers based on AMD's chips.

On his core theme, Ruiz spoke about health-care as an area where our industry could do better. He invited onstage Dr. David Brailer, former US national coordinator for health information technology. The two men discussed what they see as a current crisis in the US health-care industry which remains mired in paper-based records and outdated IT systems.

"Paper kills," Brailer said. He claims up to 80 per cent of the 98,000 people in the US who die every year from medical error could be saved if IT systems were fully instituted.

What was needed to make a nationwide health network a reality was further innovation by IT companies along with substantial reductions in the cost of technology so that all sizes of medical facilities could afford to implement IT, Brailer said.

"IT is considered to be one of the best therapies for the health-care industry today," he said.

Healthcare is a $US2 trillion industry, according to Brailer.

Ruiz said that the healthcare market represented a huge opportunity for IT companies.

Change would come slowly, Brailer said, but eventually consumers would really be in charge of their own medical records and therefore be able to obtain better health care.

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