Three tech Davids taking on Goliaths, and winning

It never ceases to amaze me how many companies have tried and failed to beat Apple, Intel and HP, wasting millions of dollars running head on at these now dominant firms. But every company has a weakness. Often you just have to figure out either where that firm’s blind spot is, or where they are simply unwilling to go. AMD, Dell, and Kodak have all learned the hard way that running head on at a dominant company doesn’t work, and all three have recently demonstrated strategies that flank their unbeatable competitors. Success still isn’t certain, but the odds are vastly better than they ever have been that these firms could now make gains that have eluded them before. Let’s cover each strategy.

three tech davids taking on goliaths and winning amdHow AMD is exploiting Intel’s weaknesses

AMD has only historically beaten Intel when the Santa Clara company stumbled, and it has never stumbled long enough for AMD to sustain a significant lead. This is because Intel is larger, more deeply entrenched, and AMD simply isn’t strong enough to fully displace the company in any major account. For years, AMD had tried to do what Intel does best better, and that never worked. However, this week AMD launched its Llano A Series Fusion processor, which goes where Intel has struggled: graphics performance. Intel’s weakness here has presented an increasing problem for both battery life in notebooks, and visual application performance.

AMD took a huge bet in buying ATI to make this work, and got pounded for making it, but the end result is now a processor ideal for attractively priced laptops with 10-hour battery life and strong graphics performance. Eventually it will make its way into desktops with similar advantages, that position well against Intel PCs for specific high-performance workloads. Suddenly AMD is in the game again. Coupled with a strong line of products from HP, the Sunnyvale underdog has a shot at making a sustained run against Intel. The lesson AMD learned and now exemplifies is attacking the weaknesses rather than the strengths of a dominant competitor. In Intel’s case, that weakness was graphics.

How Dell is outflanking Apple

Dell’s last big run at Apple was with its MP3 player in the US market, and Apple kicked Dell’s butt. But while Apple is unbeatable in the US market, it is far weaker in Europe and Asia (I’m told this is largely because their distributors aren’t very effective and the geographic distances involved limit Apple ability to correct this problem). Part of this weakness is also that Apple designs for the US market, and doesn’t do geography-specific products that may other countries require. Regardless of the cause, it would be silly to bring out an iPad competitor in the US where the company is strong, and we’ve seen a number of Android, and RIM tablets fail in this market.

Dell instead pushed its latest iPad-like tablet into the Chinese market first, and loaded it with software that was specific to China. The company essentially did what Toyota finally learned to do when it moved effectively against Ford and GM in the US market. Dell built a tablet specifically for China. This is a flanking move away from Apple’s core strength, and against two known weaknesses that Apple has. The end result should be far better than if Dell had run against Apple in the US.

How Kodak is cherry picking HP’s customers

HP is nearly as dominant with printers as Apple is with the iPod. A fierce competitor, HP has an unmatched ecosystem for paper and ink and massive retail presence. Companies like Kodak, Lexmark, Xerox, and even IBM have broken on the shores of HP’s dominance, making it the most capable division in what is arguably the most powerful company in the world. Kodak couldn’t run at HP directly, but recognizing that the printer market was a razor-blade-type market where the printers were largely subsidized by the relative high cost of supplies, Kodak moved to break the model and tightly target its offering.

Kodak InkKodak charges more for its printers, but then sharply discounts their ink and supplies so that power printers find substantial savings by using Kodak products. The firm is reporting strong market-share gains in the most lucrative, high-volume segments as a result, because supplies are what make the money. HP can’t effectively counter without destroying its own revenue model. This is called “cherry picking,” or focusing your effort on the part of the market you want (Apple kind of does this with premium PC buyers against Microsoft). The end result is that Kodak is having some of the greatest success in printers it has ever enjoyed, just by thinking through where HP was most vulnerable and exploiting that vulnerability.

Fighting smart

Each of these companies has taken on a very powerful company not known for making mistakes. But by attacking where the company is weak, flanking the company, or cherry picking them, each is (in theory) moving vastly better competitively than they ever have before. There is a lesson here for anyone competing on anything. Learn your opponents’ weaknesses and exploit them, because if they are dominant, attacking them where they are strong is a losing proposition.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Home Theater

Budget TVs are finally worth buying, and you can thank Roku

Not all that long ago, budget TVs were only worth looking at if, well, you were on a budget. Thanks to Roku, not only are budget TVs now a viable option for anyone, but they might even be a better buy than more expensive TVs.
Product Review

The Nuimo Click’s self-powering control convenience is cool but costly

Smart home devices might be clever, but needing your phone to use them is not. Senic’s Nuimo Click is the set of physical buttons that your smart devices are missing. But these smart, self-powered buttons aren’t cheap.
Mobile

Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

Smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, LG, Sony, and Motorola are releasing far too many similar phones. The update cycle has accelerated, but more choice is not always a good thing.
Opinion

Do we even need 5G at all?

Faster phones, easier access to on-demand video, simpler networking -- on the surface, 5G sounds like a dream. So why is it more of a nightmare?
Computing

Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer's Blade 15 is an awesome laptop for both gamers, streamers, professionals, and anyone else needing serious go in a slim profile, but its price is out of reach for many games. The new Blade 15 Base solves that problem with few…
Gaming

Going to hell, again. The Switch makes 'Diablo 3' feel brand-new

I've played every version of Diablo 3 released since 2012, racking up hundreds of hours in the process. Six years later, I'm playing it yet again on Nintendo Switch. Somehow, it still feels fresh.
Home Theater

The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why

Apple announced numerous new products at its October 30 event, a lineup that included a new iPad Pro, a MacBook Air, as well as a new Mac Mini. Here are four reasons we wish a new set of AirPods were on that list.
Gaming

‘Fallout 76’ may have online multiplayer but it’s still a desolate wasteland

"Is Fallout 76 an MMO?" That depends on who you ask. Critics and players often cite its online multiplayer capabilities as a reason it qualifies. Yet calling the game an MMO only confuses matters, and takes away from what could make…
Digital Trends Live

Microsoft has #*!@ed up to-do lists on an epic scale

Microsoft has mucked up to-do lists on a scale you simply can’t imagine, a failure that spans multiple products and teams, like a lil’ bit of salmonella that contaminates the entire output from a factory.
Opinion

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?
Gaming

Throw out the sandbox. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is a fully realized western world

Despite featuring around 100 story missions, the real destination in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the journey you make for yourself in the Rockstar's open world, and the game is better for it.
Gaming

‘Diablo Immortal’ is just the beginning. Mobile games are the future

Diablo fans were furious about Diablo Immortal, but in truth, mobile games are the future. From Apple and Samsung to Bethesda and Blizzard, we’re seeing a new incentive for games that fit on your phone.
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Music

Brian Eno sets out to change music (again) with Bloom: 10 World

We always felt that Bloom was a musical system that could be developed further -- it was as if we’d built a CD player and only ever released one CD. For this release, we’ve created ten new worlds, starting with a reimagined version of…