Re: nouveau : Open Source 3D acceleration for nVidia cards
There's really no need for Nvidia to open their driver; they simply need to document the interfaces to the hardware. The hardware remains a black-box.
The open source folks will be poking registers/ports/memory to see what impact it has, and working backward from that to create a driver. This is a very slow and error prone process. It could even damage many cards.
Nvidia could simply provide guidance, as other vendors have. This can be done (and has been done with other vendors), without disclosing any information under NDA regarding chips and intellectual property (don't poke that, it'll kill the chip).
In addition, they could provide financial resources or hardware to replace equipment destroyed during the reverse engineering process, and to encourage development.
The advantages to Nvidia? They are free from the IP restrictions that apparently limit their actions now. They gain a much wider customer base. Their hardware can be supported "out of the box", by the various X projects (Xfree86, Xorg, XGL), on many more platforms. Their support and development costs are reduced - shifted to the community. And of course, there's customer goodwill.
Nvidia could even change to "for charge" business structure, like Cedega or Cross-Over Office; acceptable functionality in the open source driver, enhanced functionality at a modest charge. The enhanced functionality for older hardware is periodically rolled into the open source driver. There are many options.