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SubjectRe: HARDWARE: Open-Source-Friendly Graphics Cards -- Viable?

Kendall Bennett wrote:
> David Lang <> wrote:
>>On Wed, 20 Oct 2004, Timothy Miller wrote:
>>>Sure, SOME companies release specs so that we can develop
>>>open source drivers, but those cards tend to be prohibitively expensive,
>>>slower than their cheaper counterparts from ATI or nVidia...
>>Tim, I think this is the key problem. with the current ATI/nVidia
>>cards beign in the $50 range (with other cards on the market for
>>as low as $30) are you really going to be able to come up with a
>>card that's price competitive? (completely ignoring the
>>performance question)
>>as for your other question of if an open approach could be viable
>>(after all nobody does it today so doesn't that proove it isn't)
>>this is where there is a significant disagreement. the Linux folks
>>think that such openess would be very viable and the companies are
>>just pursuing a legacy approach, but the companies are scared to
>>open things up becouse they don't believe that they would remain
>>since nobody has done this yet (for video cards anyeay) there is
>>no proof one way or the other.
> Wrong. Companies *have* tried to go down the Open Source route and it did
> not work out for them. ATI in particular. At one point ATI released all
> the register level information and in fact released sample 3D driver
> source code to the community for the early Radeon chipsets. Unfortunately
> the Linux and Open Source community never stepped up to the plate to
> support ATI in this effort. There are solid business reasons that ATI has
> explained to me for why ATI decided to give up on the Open Source
> approach and go back to proprietary 3D drivers for Linux.
> For 2D they continue to maintain XFree86/ drivers with full source
> code for the community, just not 3D.
> If someone wishes to go down this route, more power to them. But I don't
> think it is a viable way to make money for a business. The biggest
> problem is that even if every active Linux or Open Source kernel
> developer decided to buy one of these cards, that is a pretty small
> market. The unfortunate fact I have come to realise is that there is a
> very large contingent of Linux end users out there who just want free
> stuff. Free as in free beer. They could care less whether the source code
> is available as long as they don't pay for it. Those same users are also
> more than happy to install ATI or NVIDIA proprietary kernel modules and
> taint their kernel so they can get 3D support when running Linux and
> still run their favorite games at full speed under Windows. Those same
> users probably won't pay a premium to get a 3D card that is slower than
> an ATI or NVIDIA just because it has source code for the drivers.
> Sad but true IMHO.

What you are speaking is something I often hear described as "cold, hard

I'm just hoping the fact that Tech Source has always been a niche player
will allow this product to be viable. There are all sorts of things
that we can do which would be a waste of time for bigger companies that
already sell to bigger markets.

I'm hoping that some of this famous "free software loyalty" is really
true. One fact is that we really cannot sell this product without
everyone knowing the cost of every part that went into it. Even if we
don't publish all the economic details, fans are likely to figure it
out. We really CAN'T screw anyone either on price or on support. Maybe
that will count for something.

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