Interview: We chat with the founder of Velocity Micro

So far, our series of interviews with executives of high end PC gamers has chatted with the founders of Falcon Northwest and MAINGEAR. Today, we continue our series with a chat with Randy Copeland, the founder, president and CEO of Velocity Micro, which has now reintroduced the Overdrive PC brand.

First, Velocity Micro recently relaunched your Overdrive PC brand. What was the motivation behind this idea?

Overdrive PC has an amazing history in the boutique PC space and we’ve always felt that the Overdrive brand is critically important because it gives our customers that ultra high end option some of them want – think of it as the Ferrari to Velocity Micro’s BMW. We felt that we needed to re-energize the brand and remind enthusiast about this amazing option Overdrive provides. So we decided that with the re-designed VelocityMicro.com unifying all of our sub brands under one domain, it was a good time to reintroduce our customers to Overdrive PC by relaunching the brand.

What will Overdrive PCs have that PCs made by other companies won't have?

The main tenant of the Overdrive Philosophy is the increased performance the customer gets from Hyperclocking, our trademarked version of overclocking. While the competition is only overclocking single cores on quad and hexa core CPUs or giving their customers a “range” of overclock speeds on the systems they sell, Overdrive PC guarantees a rock solid overclock on all cores at a guaranteed speed. No tricks, gimmicks, or bait and switch. It’s essentially free computing power, and the techniques took us years of testing and measuring to produce. It's not just a matter of a few BIOS tweaks that any novice could google.

Some people have said they can make their own PCs cheaper and have them be as powerful as those made by companies such as Velocity Micro. What is your argument to convince those people to purchase one of your desktops or notebooks?

I have heard it a thousand times, that somebody can build an identical system for half the price. You can buy parts and build a computer yourself for less, but if the parts are identically chosen, then the price delta is always far, far less than that. Nobody has ever been able to actually bust that myth to me. Consumers can certainly build their own systems with parts they buy individually for cheaper than we or our competition sells them, assuming they have the know-how. But once you factor in the time it takes to research each part, assembly, wiring, and troubleshooting, that price advantage shrinks away quickly.

For our customers, it’s really about that wow factor when they open up a brand new PC and hook it up for the first time, not about wasting their weekends troubleshooting a desktop they built. Another thing to consider is the warranty coverage we provide – our systems ship with up to three years of coverage including depot or on site repair and lifetime US-based phone support. DIYers have nobody to call for help.

Let's talk about the future of hardware in desktop and notebook PCs. Where do you see hardware such as graphics cards, hard drives, displays and memory going in the next couple of years?

GPUs and CPUs are going to keep getting faster definitely, but the next frontier we’re starting to see there is even better power efficiency and heat management. Even now, we’re seeing graphics cards that blow away their predecessors that use less wattage and run cooler. Hard drives will continue to move toward SSDs as they get larger and more affordable. Memory will keep getting faster, cheaper, and more efficient. And I think we’re already seeing the future of display technology with higher and higher pixel densities and the extreme thinness that LEDs and even OLEDs can offer. At this point, we can build a computer fast enough to run any game at immersive resolutions and refresh rates, and now the new crop of games is catching back up in ways that are simply not possible on a console or handheld device.

We see a lot of reports about the "death of the PC" due to the smartphone and tablet industry. Why do you think the hardcore PC hardware market is still going to be around even with the rise of both of these products?

The reports of the PC’s death have been greatly exaggerated. As great as tablets and smartphones are for travel, light work, and casual gaming, they’re simply not a replacement for a high end PC. While some consumers may be getting rid of their budget desktops or laptops, our research has shown that tablets and smartphones are supplementary or complementary devices for our customers. It’s a new and separate category, not one that will negatively impact high end PC hardware. There is no way to play a truly immersive and massive game on anything but a PC.

We have also seen the beginnings of the cloud-based PC game service. Do you think that if this becomes popular it could mean that there will be less of a need for high end PCs for playing games?

It’s possible, but cloud based gaming has a long way to go to catch up in terms of immersion, playability, and overall experience. A true hardcore gamer or enthusiast – the type of customer that chooses Velocity Micro – will not be satisfied with a cloud based alternative. Don't forget, the connection speed is going to be the bottleneck for years to come with a sophisticated game.

Windows 8 is, without a doubt, the biggest change for Microsoft's operating system since it began. What is your personal opinion on Windows 8 and how it will affect the PC industry?

For Microsoft, mobile is their opportunity for expansion. They had to do something to try to unify their platforms or risk serious segmentation down the road as mobile solutions like tablets and phones continue to supplement desktops and laptops. The Metro interface is a bit of a risk, but it’s what needed to be done. I haven’t had enough time with Windows 8 just yet, and it's still getting cleaned up and fleshed out, but I think it would be a mistake to bet against them.

Does Velocity Micro have any plans to release any gaming PC products that will use Windows 8's touch screen interface, such as a notebook or tablet-slate device, similar to its Cruz Android tablets?

Absolutely. Stay tuned!

How do you feel about Microsoft entering the PC hardware market with the Surface?

It was something that Microsoft probably felt they had to do for their own well being. Apple and Android have gotten such a head start and in Android’s case, developed such a stable of hardware partners already, that Microsoft needed to make a splash on their own to attract attention or risk completely missing this emerging market. I think Microsoft has no intentions of being in the tablet hardware market permanently. The Surface is intended to show us hardware builders “the way” and show consumers what potential lies ahead with Windows 8, and it lets them tell the story themselves in the way they see best fit. 

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Velocity Micro and its plans for the future?

We’ve got big things planned for all aspects of our business, from enthusiast to mainstream, mobile to desktop and everything in between. There are some fundamental changes in the way people will take their digital world with them, but heavy productivity and immersive gaming are going to need a powerful PC on the desk for years to come. If you haven’t heard of Velocity Micro before, now you can follow as we continue to meet the ever changing needs of portability and performance solutions our customers demand. And soon.

We would like to thank Randy Copeland for his time

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