Perception and the market:

Recently I wrote a piece that opened up a possible skeleton in AMD’s closet. This brought out the critics left and right and even resulted in a direct attack by another publication.  Why is the airing of a bad practice by AMD so unappealing to people? It all comes down to perception and the psychological need to believe in right and wrong, good and bad

Our brains force us to believe in a moral order, we HAVE to think of things in terms of the good guys and the bad guys. It is a natural part of our brain and psyche.

The Brain is a wonderfull thing but can work against us

Our brain is an amazing system that can fool us into rationalizing almost anything

In the market world, world we see that as a justification of practices, policies and products. Putting the ball closer to home, when we discuss the IT industry – things tend to get out of hand. For instance:

We excuse the poor performing CPUs of AMD by saying, well they are inexpensive and AMD is not as “bad” a company as Intel.

nVidia did not mean to make those mistakes, it was TSMC’s fault, they should have said the bump material was insufficient…

Intel is wrong for giving rebates and loyalty money to OEMs…

Microsoft is wrong for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows…

In each of these statements we see an establishment of Moral Order; Good and Evil; right and wrong. It ignores many items that are logically and factually inherent in each of the situations. In situation one AMD made many mistakes in strategy, implementation and production.

We all can agree that the Athlon 64/Opteron [including the FX and X2 series CPUs] were incredible CPUs. They hands down outperformed the Intel offerings. However, AMD sat back and attempted to ride out that success, the AM2 CPU was a failure as a CPU the older Athlon 64 could perform just as fast there was nothing compelling to make people want to upgrade to the AM2. Then Intel dropped the Core architecture on the market and changed the game.  AMD’s next launch was hyped up as the second coming but failed to launch on time and was plagued with performance issues and TLB errors that knocked up to 20% performance off the top and despite being a newer CPU still could not outperform Intel. AMD decided to hit the market with the lower power more economical track. They reduced prices [which was a different strategy than with the AM2 and Althlon 64 as the high-end FX was often as much as the high-end Intel CPUs] and have continued that strategy into the current market.  But there were other mistakes; Hector Jesus Ruiz will go down as one of the worst chapters in AMD history. The buyout of ATi under Ruiz, while it made good sense for future development, damaged the company financially in ways that are still being felt.

But we rationalize the poor business leadership by saying that they have been bullied by Intel, and that they are cheaper and the “good guy” in the market. The fact of the matter is if you make a wrong decision or a judgement call, it will come back to haunt you, no matter are you perceived as "good" or "bad". Regardless of the industry, the market tends to award companies with good products and punish companies with bad ones. This has nothing to do with market position, since every company that came to market had to battle and challenge the already established order.

You can follow the other examples and find the same Moral Order applied to each no matter which side of the argument you are on. You will also find that the facts [the actual facts] differ from the way each has been presented by the media and are interpreted by the fans of each.

After all nVidia tells TSMC how to make the GPU, most companies offer rebates and discounts to use their products either exclusively or in dominance in the retail world [think iPhone and AT&T], Linux and OSX come with their prefered browsers bundled…

In the end as a community we have forgotten to remove personal feelings and view each situation as its own instance. We give personalities to corporations to establish our own personal good and evil.

It is an old Japanese proverb bushinisu wa sens de arimasu – business is war. As such you will always have a war-like mentality amongst large corporations. Where it falls down is when each company tries to spin right and wrong to their fan base.  AMD has done it, Intel has done it, nVidia … well you get the picture; now take a look beyond the spin and marketing hype to the real issues and events, you might be surprised what you will find.