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Two More In The Fray
Matrox, the undisputed king of 2D had come out with a core product in the G400 that finally showed they could compete with the big guys. It has exceptional video quality everywhere. The crispest 2D, even at resolutions like 1600x1200 and above. Extremely good color saturation in 2D and Direct 3D, solid performance in 32 bit color modes (an emerging trend) and this cool Environmental Bump Mapping feature that was more hype than practical, but still, they had it and it was fun to play with. They even had a page up showing which titles were going to come out with this EMBM thing all hooked up and ready to go. Their drivers were pretty darn solid and except for weak OpenGL performance, they could be counted on to handle things pretty well. Top all of that off with their innovative Dual-Head concept, and you had some serious goodness from an unexpected source. It was so popular that they came out with a faster version called the G400 Max, which sold quite well and gained a solid rep with the enthusiasts out there. We were stoked, because we had a card that did not compromise on quality at all, yet still gave you some decent gaming performance and awesome visuals. Like 3DFX, they had that multimedia audience in mind, and their G400-TV was flat-out one of the best products in its class.
Nvidia was once the new kid on the block, but had grown into an emerging force in a few short years. They may have stumbled here and there with early products, but with the TNT 2, they let it be known that they were not about to settle for anything less than being the best. They were absolutely relentless. They actively sought out input from customers all over the industry, and worked their tails off to kick out good products at a good price point. They didn't bother with a whole lot of flash and sizzle at first, just products with good 16 bit and good 32 bit color and drivers that got the job done. People were playing Quake, so they spent time making sure their cards handled OpenGL in a capable fashion. People were looking at migrating from 16 to 32 bit color, so they made sure that they did not neglect 16 bit in the move to 32 bit. They started working with OEM's to get more cards in systems and began to forge partnerships with retail vendors like Creative to get more cards on store shelves. They adopted (and adhered to) an unheard-of 6-month development cycle, kept pounding away at problems, and addressed each with a balance of time and benefit. They seemed determined not to repeat the mistakes of those that had come before, and for the most part showed a solid resolve as they progressed. The landscape was changing, and they were not about to be left behind.
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Success
Long story short, some folks stubbed some toes big-time. 3DFX seemed to grow lead boots. While their 2000 and 3000 products flew off store shelves, they got caught flat-footed in the move to 32 bits. They worked on what would become the Voodoo 5500, but their labors dragged on and on to the point that when the product finally did arrive, it was just too late to make much of an impact. Sad too, because I liked that card. Their purchase of STB and move away from pure chipset manufacturer was a horrible decision, and their attempts to branch off into other areas were dismal failures. They had lost valuable partnerships, were not even close to innovating in their product development and were losing any focus and vision that they once had. The momentum was gone, the desire seemed gone and the end was surely near.
Matrox just seemed to run out of desire to compete. After the surprising success of the G400 and G400 Max, they all but gave up on the 3D gaming market, making a strategic decision to stick with the corporate market instead. I was bummed. I have a G400 32 meg card and still have a G400-TV card. The problem certain was not that they couldn't make great products or great drivers, they just seemed to feel that the gaming market was not worth pursuing for them. They focused on their legendary 2D quality and their innovative Dual-Head design and simply said "Thanks, but no thanks" to the gaming market. At the time I was baffled, but at least they still seem to be on their feet, so who am I to second guess?
Isn't it just sad and pathetic when you see these big, million dollar market leaders stumble over their own feet like inept children with an inner-ear imbalance? How can these so-called professional executives screw something up that was such a sweet gig? It just makes you want to walk up and slap 'em silly, don't it?