Grey marketing, rebate scams, warranty woes -- it's all par for the course in the often clandestine underbelly of the CPU and components market. With AMD's channel attempting to stamp out all three, ARN spoke to the mystery man known in the trade as "Fast Eddie", a trader AMD is desperate to stop.
Fast Eddie is in demand. He has built a business that has customers and independent retailers lining up for hours on a Saturday morning. They're there to pick up AMD CPUs and a host of consumables at prices that make AMD's legitimate distributors squirm. And why not?
"Conform or else," Eddie said as we sit down in the backyard of his home in Sydney's northwest. "That's what AMD [Australia] is telling me. Or else what? I say, if I can get the product for cheaper somewhere else [other than through AMD Australia's legitimate channels] then why are they trying to stop Eddie?"
Eddie manages IT-Rite, a Web site business that operates out of the front room of his suburban home. It's a retail and wholesale business where customers keep coming back for the simple reason that it's always cheaper from Eddie, and if no-one else can get it, you can bet Eddie already has it in stock.
Onto his third cigarette and fourth mobile call (he has two -- one he answers, the other he doesn't) in as many minutes, Eddie leans across and says that he's got one of AMD's "legitimate" distributors on the phone. It wants to sell Eddie six 1.5GHz AMD CPUs. He'll take them because 1500s were rare as hen's teeth two weeks ago. Besides, IT-Rite has a dozen or so chips the so-called distributor is looking to take off Eddie's hands.
"Where are they from?" Long pause. "Yeah, but if they're from APD [International] they're not warranted," he baits the mystery caller. "I know they're from you, it's cool, I was just trying to prove a point to someone."
And so it goes for Fast Eddie. A business of fast deals, lots of cash and low prices.
Eddie and the three-person band that is IT-Rite have become somewhat of an enigma for AMD. IT-Rite is registered under Eddie's wife's name, Amber Hollindale, and commenced trading on June 6 last year. Since then, the company has grown through word of mouth and the Web site (www.it-rite.com.au) to a multimillion-dollar, 60,000-CPUs-a-year business, according to Eddie.
From humble beginnings IT-Rite has found itself in the centre of a David and Goliath battle with the giant chipmaker AMD. Eddie openly states he sources about half of his chips directly from AMD's factory in Germany. The other half is made up from various sub distributors and anyone who's willing to bring a suitcase full through customs after a trip to Southeast Asia.
But at the moment, it's the stock left over in former authorised distributor APD International that has IT-Rite moving boxes. Eddie disagrees with earlier reports that there was around $1 million in stock left after AMD terminated its relationship with the distributor. He believes it was closer to $3.5 million and he's moving as much of it as he can.
Read Eddie's story and ARN's full investigation in this week's issue (19 June), out now.
* The warranty issue. Will customers be left in the cold?
* Parallel importing. Can AMD stop him? And at what cost?
* Competition. What do AMD's legitimate distributors think?