Special report: More than a Tiny blow

Intel Corp. looks to be the loser after Tiny Computers Ltd.’s demise. Tiny was an Intel-only manufacturer for most of its lifetime, whereas Time Computers Ltd. remains Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s biggest customer in the U.K. Now that Time has taken over the Tiny brand, Intel has taken a blow.

Time plans to keep the Tiny brand going, at least in name, but it seems inevitable that many Tiny machines will no longer have an Intel inside. Colin Middlemiss, spokesman for Time, confirmed that “some” of the new Tiny-branded PCs will have AMD processors in them.

Tiny, which initially only used Intel processors, briefly flirted with AMD in September 2000, but phased out all AMD products by July 2001 to resume its exclusive relationship with Intel.

Currently, only 15 per cent of Time’s PCs have Intel processors in them, but Middlemiss would not say whether this will be the same for the new Tiny units. “There are many decisions yet to be taken,” he told PC Advisor.

Industry insiders believe that the company created by the takeover will be a major force in the U.K. PC market.

“In theory the combined Tiny/Time partnership will be a significant player in the home PC market,” acknowledged Con Mallon, Packard Bell’s country manager for U.K. and Ireland. Packard Bell, which only sells its products in Dixon’s Group Stores, may find this new company challenging for its business in the near future.

Intel would not comment on what Tiny’s takeover might mean to Intel.

When asked if Intel would attempt to build upon its relationship with Time, Intel stuck with an anodyne: “We are always keen to work with as many customers as possible and to offer them the best products.”

Whether Time’s acquisition of Tiny has any great effect on the battle between Intel and AMD in the U.K. remains to be seen. Ranjit Atwal of research firm Gartner Dataquest believes it will. “It’s going to have some impact,” he told PC Advisor.

“Of course it will make no difference on a global level,” said Jason Kao, U.K. manager of AsusTek Computers. “But so many consumer PCs in the U.K. have AMD processors, Tiny was important to Intel in the U.K.”

According to statistics from research firm IDC, more than eight in 10 machines sold in the U.K. are powered by Intel chips. AMD’s processors are in 12 per cent of the machines sold, with other manufacturers accounting for the other three per cent.

Richard Baker, a marketing manager for AMD, said that Time’s takeover of Tiny was “certainly good news for AMD.” He added that he was hopeful that AMD would take business away from Intel as a consequence.

When questioned as to how much of a blow this has dealt to Intel in terms of the U.K. market, he said he thinks it must be “highly embarrassing for Intel.” particularly as the chip firm had made such a big issue of Tiny’s decision to return to an exclusive relationship.