There are so many unnoticed things that ATI has been doing the last 3 years that all lead to the R3xx products.
Problem: How to cram millions of resistors into a.15 micron package and run it at high clocks?
Answer: Strike a technology agreement with Intel. They did it already.
Problem: Our drivers suck.
Answer: Hire the best 3D graphics programmers we can, that have proven track records. Nice place to start would be at Microsoft.
Problem: Our drivers are ok, but we need full DX support, or as much as we can in hardware.
Answer: We have the DX lead programmer, let's make nice with MS and see what else is down the road and say 'yes' to everything and then do it.
Problem: Who is gonna design this shizz?
Answer: Buy Artx
Problem: This shizz is too complex to continue from scratch every time!
Answer: Get the CAD guys to find/buy the tools to make all this modularized and reuseable.
Problem: Our image sucks
Answer: Put key people in touch with the community on the WEB boards, give away stuff, attend trade shows and give more stuff away, call the devs and hand them free stuff, fund some games for cryin out loud, and build hardware that will market itself.
Problem: NVidia got the XBox deal
Answer: In due time.
They seem to be on a roll, and it is mostly from some very well thought out management decisions and plans. They stayed focused and followed through. Hard to take away from what they have accomplished.