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David & Goliath: The art of battling giants with open standards

Everyone loves a good underdog story. “Money Ball,” “Forrest Gump,” “Billy Elliot,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and the list goes on.

There are many great movies and books to prove that people love stories of an underdog winning and succeeding contrary to popular expectation. Why? Because no one likes to witness an obvious story of the big, rich and powerful opponent constantly winning over the weaker side.

However, it’s no secret that this happens in real life quite often. We see many industries dominated by two or three big players, especially in the technology industry with smartphones, digital books, PCs, tablets and more. It may be because the industry has a high-entry barrier, requires a huge economy of scale, massive R&D costs and complying with strict government regulation to meet even the minimum qualification.

It could also be due to the big players that build a fortress to keep the entry barrier high, sometimes abusing its dominant position to their own advantage and not sharing information needed for others to coexist and grow the industry. As a result, the government or an international organisation often plays a role to control the monopoly and apply antitrust policy.

Government applying antitrust policy or consumers requesting fair competition is not an act of hoping to see the big guys lose all the time. Often it’s about protecting the less powerful players. It’s about making the industry healthier and providing more options for consumers to choose whether they want a high-end or entry-level technology or if it’s is a low or high cost product. It all comes down to “having a choice.” But in order to have healthy competition, an attempt to just protect the weaker side doesn’t always make sense or there will be unfair competition to the big player. The underdog has to come up with brilliant solutions to overcome the economy of scale and R&D costs, and most importantly, the solutions must be brilliant enough to be chosen by a consumer.

From a book by Malcom Gladwell titled “David and Goliath,” the author discusses the version of the story that has been told over many centuries and states why almost everything about it is wrong. It isn’t a miracle that David defeated the Goliath, but a very strategically placed battle, with David’s calculated way of dealing with the competition and interpreting the giant in a different way than others.

AMD is a chip maker and has been an underdog in the semiconductor industry throughout its 45 years of history. The likeness of Gladwell’s interpretation of “David & Goliath” begins here. To strive and win in the market, AMD is focused on developing, and partnering to develop, complementary and differentiated technologies that will allow the unique features of our processors to be truly optimised. Ultimately, to remain competitive, companies need to compete collectively by maintaining a sustainable ecosystem of partners and an open standards policy.

A great example of AMD’s open ecosystem is the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation. A strong group of industry leaders, including ARM®, MediaTek, Texas Instruments, Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm and Oracle, are all committed to developing an innovative computing architecture that is optimized for power efficiency and performance. Some of these companies may be competitors but they have joined forces with a common goal in mind. The HSA vision for enabling heterogeneous computing across a wide range of devices requires the collaboration of device manufacturers, developers and semiconductor manufacturers to develop a robust HSA architecture that is open, spurring future innovations for years to come in the PC, mobile, server, HPC and cloud computing markets. Building on open standards enables the best choice for consumers for any bottom line.

For example, AMD delivers virtualisation, security and manageability solutions built on industry-leading open standards. Security and virtualisation features are designed into every AMD PRO A-Series Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), and these features work within existing environments to enable freedom of choice without locked-in, proprietary solutions or costs. Because AMD PRO-based systems are based on industry-leading DASH (Desktop and Mobile Architecture for System Hardware) standards, they are compatible with a broad range of software and technology on commercial desktops and laptops.

By nurturing multiple aspects of an open ecosystem and understanding the pressures our partners are under, we’re continuing to stay ahead of the game in order to deliver on our commitments and continue fostering innovation and success. This helps all of us build better products to further meet market demands and increase the potential for market success.

As Malcom Gladwell stated in his book, the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors, create opportunities, educate and enlighten, and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.

This is truly the way for us, as the perceived underdogs, to survive and win in the industry with a differentiated approach. For AMD, this approach revolves around building a healthy ecosystem with an open standards policy, and EVERYONE is welcome to join.

David Bennett is corporate vice president and head of worldwide commercial sales at AMD.

Image source: Shutterstock/alphaspirit