Re: AMD/ATI Commits to open source drivers
AMD has always been OSS friendly. One of the first things that came into my head when I heard that AMD was buying ATI was that perhaps AMD might do the right thing by moving ATI to an open specs/source model once the merger had happened. Now we are seeing that perhaps this might actually happen.
AMD has had very good support for and from the Linux community over the years and has also had a good working relationship with the Linux kernel team. Intel has also had a good relationship with the kernel AND x.org teams. The natural question is who does AMD view as their main competitor, Intel or nVidia, and does this play into how they will handle the closed vs. open approach with regard to the GPU drivers and specs? My gut tells me that they view Intel as their main competitor and that they will eventually go open source/specs like Intel. The advantage that AMD/ATI have is that their graphics hardware is far more powerful than anything that Intel has available and if they do go the open specs/source route they will have a significant advantage over both Intel (because of having better hardware) and nVidia (because of the better relationship with the community) in the OSS market segment.
I have worked with another set of hardware vendors that make color measurement equipment and were competitors in their field. One of these also had a tradition, like AMD and Intel, of providing specifications that would allow OSS projects to interface to their devices. The other company had also done this in the past but had stopped doing this a few years ago and only offered closed source interface libraries. In addition, those libraries were only offered to the public for Windows and the Mac even though they had linux versions in house. About a year ago they merged and late last year dropped support for all of the devices that had open specs and basically became a closed source/specs shop. Their sales people were very surprised when I and other folks working in the application space that used these devices reacted negatively to the news of this change in company policy and they appear to be rethinking this at this time.
What most of us don't seem to realize is that the market share for Linux end user machines (non-server) has grown significantly over the last few years. In fact the installed base of end user (non-server) Linux machines was the same size as the Mac installed base in Dec of 2004 at about 2.8% of the installed base and was growing at a faster pace than the Mac user base. Projections at that time were that this would grow to 6% by the end of 2006 and 10% by 2010. My point being that many think that Linux on the desktop is a less than 1% market share sort of thing when in fact there are now more end user Linux boxes then there are Macs by a considerable margin. In spite of this all of these hardware vendors supply high quality Mac drivers but fail miserably when it comes to Linux. Seems kind of screwed up to me.
In any case I am optimistic that AMD actually understands this and that in the long run they will do the right thing and open up their GPU code and specs. Since this can only help them in the long run.