Very well thought out and well spoken post Chris. You pretty much explained the situation perfectly.
I think Nvidia should have focused less on the older and modern products and more on the future products. They are selling the cards for $500 afterall. It's not like you're just going to throw the card away after 6 months. Even if Nvidia want's to call upon partial, fragmented, and interger precision at specific times for rendering a given scene, they should make sure the full precision is up to snuff first. Basically, they shouldn't use the partial precision to be "as good as, or slightly better than" anyone else using full precision. They should have targeted the full precision to be "as good as" or better than their competitors and the partial to completely blow the competition away.
I think it's great Nvidia went above and below the standard. But it's bad that they don't have the performance when going above the standard or even meeting the standard. The above the standard doesn't do much good if it runs too slow to implement.
I don't think so much that they made a mistake with this architecture. It's more because the r300 that it seems like a failure. Because they were not expecting ATI to implement as well as they did when they did they didn't feel they needed to push the bar so high . Who really expected ATI to pull of what they did with the r300? I certainly didn't. I'm sure they weren't expecting it either. Not with ATI's past record on releasing cards. Especially when they heard ati was using .15 micron. Most of the "experts" didn't think they'd be clocked much over 225mhz on 15 micron with all the dx9 features packed in there.
If ATI hadn't released the r300 we would all be in agreement that the nv30 is a kick ass card. But after the 9700 the nv30 was a dissappointment. Especially for anyone used to Nvidia being on the top. I was expecting alot more from them after seeing the 9700. But I guess that wasn't realistic. If the r300 was never released, it would be the pahrelia against the nv30. Then the nv30 would have looked like a whopper.
I think if the r300 was never released, or only performed on the same level as the pahrelia, nvidia never would have had a problem with 3dmark03. They would have used it's marketing value for all it's worth. Just like they did with 3dmark2001. It's not that 3dmark03 makes nvidia looks bad. It's that the r300 makes the nv30 look bad.
What bothers me is the way Nvidia has reacted to all of this though. Rather than sucking it up and moving on, they have gone to slimeball tactic mode.
Look at the nv30. They used reduced quality in the drivers on release. Some of this quality has only now been cleared up. This is Nvidia, the company with great drivers. I don't feel for one bit that the reduced quality was an accident. It served it's purpose. It got them better fps in games when the card was initially reviewed. The misleading control panel sliders. Suggesting review sites use control panel settings that they now darn well are not comparable when benching against the competition. Flaming futuremark rather than just dealing with not being first for once. Then after flaming futuremark, cheating in the benchmark they said they didn't like in the first place. Then after being caught, blaming futuremark again. It all just sits really bad with me.
These tactics are going to lose Nvida more customers than just having a slower card would have. After they saw the r300 they should have just accepted that they weren't going to have the fastest card for a few months. They should have just dealt with being slower in 3dmark. They should have kept overall image quality perfect, even if it meant running slower (in games too) and said hey, we'll work harder on the next card. If they'd done that, I would have actually considered buying their next card. As it is now, know way. They have a lot of confidence to regain before I'll do that. Ati is no saint either, but i'll take the lesser of two evils. I do feel ATI is actually getting better in the public image department though while Nvidia is getting worse.
Nvidia really needs to clean up their image. Die hard Nvidia fans will ignore the tactics of late, but the average joe won't. Alot of former Nvidia fans have already jumped ship to get the r300. These kinds of things will only make them less likely to come back. And I've seen enough people on the web today who have Nvidia cards now say they won't buy another one after this fiasco. Sure, it's only a benchmark. But it's also your image.
Just my 1 a.m. rambling thoughts.