Monday, June 04, 2007

AMD, clueless

AMD (which recently acquired ATI) has recently made a buzz about how they are going to do better with working with the GNU/Linux community. This offer seems to be taking the form of faster release cycles for their proprietary driver for GNU/Linux, a closed & NDA'ed beta-testing program, and abandoning "older" drivers such as the r200 series that DRI supports well.

They still don't seem to understand that while the quality of the driver and it's release is of some importance, the license of that driver is the deal breaker.

Give us a poor driver with a free (as in freedom) license and the community will make it great.

Give us an excellent driver with a proprietary license and only a minority of users will use it.


Many distros, I'll use Fedora as an example since AMD spoke about this at a RedHat Summit, will not package proprietary drivers. Ubuntu, which I believe is the most popular right now, is on the fence and, at the very least, warns the user.

To add to this many free software developers ignore ATI's drivers as proprietary. As a result there is little GNU/Linux software that takes advantage of the higher end cards, the free DRI drivers on an r200/r300 card work just fine for almost everything. They certainly will for PySoy-based games.

Why would a user, then, pay $100+ for a higher-end video card when a $35 Radeon 9250 is better supported? For users it's thus a good consumer choice to stick with the cards supported by the free drivers regardless of that user's view on software freedom.

But AMD seems ignorant that GNU/Linux is about freedom, much like McDonald's board of directors meeting over poor sales in India. I imagine a meeting like this:

Sales VP: "They don't like our beef"

Marketing VP: "So we'll give them better beef, fresher!"

Technical VP: "We could slaughter the cow on site if it helps"

Sales VP: "That could be a great slogan, 'fresh from the cow'"

[cue standard nods and voicing of agreement from around the table]

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