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The Last Days at 3dfx 219

Posted by michael
from the good-times dept.
sand writes "FiringSquad has a detailed account of what happened in the final days at 3dfx. Every 3dfx product that was released or upcoming is discussed by a former 3dfx employee with inside knowledge on what caused the product delays (including an employee who forgot to fly to Asia to pickup the first Voodoo5 chips). He also discusses money mismanagement and the STB merger. It's a very enlightening article for anyone who's interested in 3D graphics and what goes on inside these companies."
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The Last Days at 3dfx

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  • by ites (600337)
    There is no rule that says that business have to survive.
    3dfx changed the graphics scene at a time when this was worth doing,
    but today there is little need for faster graphics.
    It's natural and normal that the market moves and the companies move with the market.
    When a company is so focussed on a single segment, they usually go broke during such changes.
    Sad, but presumably their excellent people will find good work elsewhere.
    • There is no rule that says that business have to survive.

      Tell that to the RIAA, and be sure to have paramedics around when they go into convulsive fits of laughter.
      • by ites (600337)
        This is true.
        The concept that a business stopping is 'bad' is perhaps a consequence of stock markets.
        In fact it's quite natural that businesses stop being relevant and thus cease trading.
        It's a shame when they actually go broke, it would be smarter to liquidate before that
        and split the proceedings amongst the shareholders.
        But this almost never happens, because we have come to believe that a business must succeed or die, never just quit while the going is good.
        • by mrleemrlee (192314) <mrleemrlee1NO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:47AM (#4335783) Homepage
          The notion that the death of a business is no big thing ignores the human element and several economic facts.

          First of all, the death of a business creates all kinds of collateral damage, from employees who lose their jobs to creditors and shareholders who never get paid. When the going is good, wealth is created, which creates benefits not only for the company, its shareholders and its employees, but also for its vendors, the municipality it resides in, and surrounding businesses where employees shop (this is known as the "multiplier effect," if you've studied economics). Many, many people and entities gain from a healthy business.

          Second, the idea that a business should "quit while the going is good" is ridiculous on its face. Businesses are started to create wealth. They are best at creating wealth "when the going is good." It makes no sense to start a business at all if you're planning to close up shop when you start to be successful. "We just made our first profit! Time to liquidate!" Sure ...

          Businesses certainly can quite easily become irrelevant, but when that happens, there are real costs associated with that, to many consituencies. A business dying is quite far from a neutral event.
          • Economists would say the time to quit is when the net benefits of quitting equal the net benefits of staying in business. Unfortunately, most businesses are run by managment teams who are employed by the business, so thier incentives are different from the owners of the business. Which is why you occasionally see hostile takeovers to sell of the assets of the business.
          • "Death of a business" is exactly the thing to avoid.
            Normal liquidation means paying all creditors,
            giving the employees a decent period of dismissal
            and splitting the remains between the shareholders.
            It's not about quitting after a "first profit"
            but about applying the same rules to the future
            as one hopes the founders applied at the start.
          • You need to get out of business when the sale value of your assets is greater than your total profit in the future.

            Sometimes you can't predict this, short term market swings can make or break you. But if your company makes buggy whips maybe you should consider closing shop when the car starts to get big, instead of waiting until your lack of orders has forced you to borrow money and mortgage your assets just to stay in business a little longer.

            Really, a big business is no different than a sole proprietorship consulting firm. If I start to run out of jobs I'd better find new work, or quit running my own business and find a full-time job. It's easy to see this, so why is it hard to see that a big company facing the same lack of future profits would break up, selling assets and returning money to the investors letting them do something else with it, instead of burning every penny pretending they're healthy until the day they lock the doors?
    • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:34AM (#4335694)
      but today there is little need for faster graphics.

      The need for faster and better graphics is exactly why 3dfx died. nVidia caught up and passed them while they were making mistakes like telling people they didn't want or need 32bit colour in 3D games or making 2d/3d cards that didn't hold up to their 3d-only boards.
    • Remember the movie Other People's Money?

      What happened to the buggy whip companies? Even the company that made the best buggy whip eventually went out of business if they didn't change with the times to follow the market.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    3dfx became a religion. I bought an nVidia RIVA 128 and was ridiculed for buying from an unknown firm. That Glide was available for a few graphic cards only was neglected by 3dfx-zealots.
    • by StupidKatz (467476) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:18AM (#4335587)
      Up until the TNT (TNT2), 3dfx was still king of the hill... It would be like buying a Maxtor drive back in Western Digital's heyday.

      You *know* what works, so why buy anything else? On the other hand, that's why I like hardware review sites like anantech and Tom's. You may not want to trust them completely, but they do give you a free peek at hardware capabilities. :)
      • At the time of the Riva128, though, 3dfx didn't have a good 2d board. While the Riva128 wasn't the best 2d board, either, it did do the job for most people and supplied opengl support that worked OK for many games (remember that opengl support didn't come along for Voodoo cards until Quake3 stopped support for the miniGL drivers).
        • OpenGL support wasn't in existence for the R128 (outside of a very dodgy beta release) until just before the TNT was released IIRC :/
          • hmm my Viper V330 had OpenGL drivers in the box. That doesn't mean they worked very well, but they were there.

            Of course, then I had to have one of those 3d switcher programs installed on my machine all the time to tell the games whether to use my Riva128 or my SLI Voodoo2 cards.

            I went through the nVidia product cycles buying a TNT and then a TNT2Ultra before I pulled the Voodoo2 cards from my system. The Voodoo3 came out sometime after the GeForce if I remember correctly, which gives an idea of how bad the situation really was for 3dfx. The SLI Voodoo2 setup was better at some things than the TNT2 Ultra that came out so much later (and far superior to the cards before it), but the Voodoo3 didn't really compete very well with nVidia's cards by the time it came out.
    • Seeing as this is slahdot could you please explain to me what is so bad about 3dfx becoming a religion, when GNU/OSS/Linux and the like have reached a level of fanaticism amongst the developers and users that is hardly matched by any other social/technologic/scientific/religious movement?

      In other words, what makes you think that OSS is more valid a subject of religious following, than a company making products, that up to a point in time reached new heights in performance in previously unexplored ways?

      NVIDIA's G4? ATI's 9600? HA! I'm still using my V3 3000.

    • Of course, the ideal setup at that time would have been both a Riva128 and Voodoo card.

      Glide games, of course, would use the voodoo. Don't install the 3dFX directx driver and force those games to use the Riva (since the riva, at the time, was faster for directx games), and set opengl to run on the riva (if you use applications, if using games, it's up to you).

      On a side note, blender still runs quite nicely on a P166mmx with a riva 128. I can't say the same for anything when the video card is a voodoo.

      But I still love my 3 voodoo cards (a voodoo 3 and 2 voodoo 2s for SLI mode).
    • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:55AM (#4336356)
      I think one thing that really started to kill 3dfx was the fact until Voodoo5, 3dfx acceleration required you buy a separate board in addition to the main graphics card, something many users and OEM's intensely dislike.

      When both nVidia and ATI started offering better 3-D graphics cards that didn't need a second card for good 3-D performance, that seriously hurt 3dfx very quickly. It also didn't help that 3dfx's offerings when the Voodoo5 did finally get released didn't compare well with the nVidia and ATI competition, either.

      What finally killed 3dfx was the release of nVidia's GeForce 256 chipset, which offered a quantum leap forward in 3-D acceleration. ATI's rapid development of the Radeon R100 and R200 chipsets didn't help things for 3dfx, either.
      • Nope.
        Until the Riva 128/Riva TNT arrived on the scene, 3dfx was the ONLY way to go.
        Trust me - I even had a Rendition Verite card.
        Don't even mention ATI's rage pro (or MY rage at the lack of decent drivers for it).
        After the TNT, Voodoo 2 SLI was STILL faster.
        The Banshee gave 3dfx a 2d/3d solution, but it was inferior to the TNT AND the Voodoo 2 (without SLI).
        Later, 3dfx created the Voodoo 3 - in its many flavors, at different clock speeds.
        NONE could render in 32 bit color.
        Nvidia came out with the TNT 2 which COULD render in 32 bit color, and was slightly faster anyways (my V3 topped out at 200MHz, a lot of TNT 2 cards went even faster - and could use asynchronous memory/GPU speeds (yes, I know the term GPU was non-existent at the time - but it is now).
        That was the time for 3dfx to shine with its Rampage product.
        Nvidia released the Geforce - bringing geometry acceleration to the masses.
        3dfx brought the Voodoo 4 and 5, which were 32 bit enabled. However, they did not have geometry acceleration, and used a more expensive multiple chip architecture to achieve semi-competitive performance. They were behind the times in an industry where you cannot afford to fall behind.
        That was the end - Rampage never saw the light of day. Even the Voodoo 5 6000 (or Voodoo 6 6000 - I forget) vanished.
        3dfx was good, but NVidia made some bets which paid off.
        3dfx was used to LOOONNNGGG product cycles.
        Remember how many years the Voodoo graphics chipset (original) ruled the 3d scene??
        Remember how long the V2 SLI obliterated the competition??
        Nvidia changed everything with their 6 month product cycles - less profit, but more progress.
        Had 3dfx encountered stronger opposition in the Voodoo Graphics days, we might not be speaking of the company in the past tense.

        Sorry if this is double posted - my login didn't work right.
        • I still contend that the one-board solution was what really did in 3dfx.

          Once nVidia developed the RIVA 128 and TNT/TNT2 chipsets, you could get decent 3-D performance without having to hog a valuable expansion slot(s) like what you had to do with the earlier Voodoo cards. This is something a lot of end users and OEM's really liked in terms of simpler installation.

          Alas, by the time 3dfx released Voodoo5, both nVidia and ATI with their one-board solutions pretty much sewed up the market, and it was essentially all over for 3dfx.

          By the way, the original ATI Rage Pro chipset wasn't really that great for 3-D; it wasn't until the Rage 128 that ATI started to really make strides for 3-D performance, and the Radeon R100/R200 chipsets finally had pretty good 3-D performance.

          In short, 3dfx sat on its laurels too long and could not come back against nVidia and ATI.
          • > I still contend that the one-board solution was what really did in 3dfx.

            Then you're wrong, because the Voodoo3 cards were all one-board 2D/3D solutions. :-) The era of the passthrough cable ended with the Voodoo2.

            Incidentally, this is why many enthusiasts of older games keep a Voodoo2 in their machines--it provides seamless Glide support while allowing the primary card to handle all OpenGL and DirectX calls without interfering, and doesn't even use up an IRQ.

            I myself have several old Voodoo2 cards for just this purpose--many older games look worlds better when rendered under Glide as they were intended, than when rendered under D3D or a software renderer. I've tried Glide wrappers and they absolutely suck. So, for retro PC gaming, many well-rounded gamers keep a Voodoo2 along with their modern GeForceSomenumber or RadeonWhatever series cards. My favorites are the dual-Voodoo2-SLI-on-a-single-card solutions made by Quantum3D, such as the Obsidian2 X-24, which provided the best performance ever seen back in 1998 and retailed for $699. Today they can be found on eBay for less than $50, while "plain" Voodoo2 cards can be had for just a few dollars.

            I digress, but anyway, my point was that the Voodoo2 was the last add-in 3d-only accelerator. Everything after, including the Voodoo3 series, were integrated 2d/3d. And at the time, the Voodoo3 series spanked all but the TNT2 Ultra line, which of course was released 6 months later than the original TNT2, which was stomped by the Voodoo3 cards in performance. The TNT2's only advantage was 32-bit color, which at the time required a rather high-end processor to be playable anyway.
      • by travail_jgd (80602) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @11:32AM (#4337208)
        Sorry, but you're completely wrong.

        1. The Voodoo 3, 4, and 5 all had integrated 2D and 3D.

        2. If OEMs didn't like add-on cards, why did they sell them preinstalled? I was shopping online for my PC way-back-when, and Voodoo 1 (and eventually Voodoo 2) cards were offered as (overpriced) options. Just like you can get NIC's and CD-RWs as options now.

        3. The GeForce and Radeons weren't the main killers of 3dfx. The other contributing factors were:

        a. Technical limitations. The Voodoo 3 and 4 line weren't much more than fast Banshees. My Voodoo 3 card has most of the same limitations as a Voodoo 1 (16-bit color, 256x256 textures), but almost no additional 3D features (primarily higher screen resolution).

        b. Marketing. The Voodoo 1 and 2 lines were always the fastest in benchmarks. NVidia's TNT line was slower (but had more stable framerates), and Matrox was known for picture quality. When the Voodoo 3/4 came out, 3dfx lost the speed crown, and started talking about "image quality".

        c. NVidia's 6-month release cycle. 3dfx couldn't keep up, and their "older" cards had an outdated feature-set. The GeForce was a big advance, but only in terms of fill-rate; there weren't any games (at that time) taking advantage of the new features. 3dfx lost a lot of the hearts of gamers and enthusiasts when they started pushing back release dates.

        d. Buying STB. I don't think that the purchase was the final nail in 3dfx's coffin, but it certainly didn't provide the desired benefits.
  • Competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by e8johan (605347) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:03AM (#4335489) Homepage Journal
    This is what competition is all about. When a company cannot deliver the best product to the best price they don't get any income. If you don't have and income and spend alot without being able to overtake your competators, you will enventually run out of money. It is not fun, but reality in a market economy.

    Eventually we will see this when it comes to ATI and nVidia, or they will find a niche market to survive in. The big profit will go to the one making the best product at the best price.

    Note - I do not critisize market economy, without it we would probably not have hardware accelerated 3D for home computers at all!
    • Eventually we will see this when it comes to ATI and nVidia, or they will find a niche market to survive in. The big profit will go to the one making the best product at the best price.

      I doubt that either ATI or nVidia is going to replace the other. They've each managed to keep pace with the other along the lines of both performance and price. So, unless one of them is operating too close to their margins at present, I don't see why they can't continue to compete for a good long time.
    • Re:Competition (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jayayeem (247877)
      Both ATI and nVidia can survive because the both support the microsoft DirectX APIs. 3dfx could not survive because they did not support them, or supported them only as an afterthought to their own Glide. All Windows users have DirectX... a few had Glide. As the performance edge disappeared, so did the reason to support Glide.

      • I'll reply to all replies here.

        DirectX or not, competing and overtaking each other over and over again - still, one will win in the end.
        As for DirectX, if you support it, but don't deliver performance, your dead.
        Compete for a long time, yes, but I did not specify a time limit

        I'm just saying that you have to deliver a good product to a good price, and anyone who can't deliver the best product to the best price (ratio, best does not mean cheapest) will lose in the long run.
        • competing and overtaking each other over and over again - still, one will win in the end....Compete for a long time, yes, but I did not specify a time limit

          And in the long run we're all dead. And the universe suffers a (pick one) Big Crunch / heat death.

          But if you're talking about _meaningful_ time frames...
        • Re:Competition (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jayayeem (247877)
          Price/performance ratio is not the only level of competition for graphics cards. It does happen to be the criteria I'd use if I were in the market.

          Some buyers (office managers) will buy based on raw price.

          Others (gamers) will buy on raw performance.

          One company may eventually fill all three niches (and any others I may have missed) but I don't think it is the inevitable outcome.

          As for DirectX, it is the minimum point of entry to the graphics market today. If you don't support it, and support it in the segment you compete at, you are dead. One reason 3dfx died, IMHO, is that it tried to compete at the high end, but its Direct X support was decidedly low end.

          I'd read the article if it weren't blocked by my proxy.
        • I don't think you understand economics. Nothing says that there has to be a winner where someday all graphics cards will come from. To believe that in some great "ending" there will just be a bunch of monopolies out there is a pretty wrong way to look at things.
    • Re:Competition (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dpilot (134227) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:50AM (#4336312) Homepage Journal
      You've missed the point. There is not supposed to be a Final Winner, or else we all lose. As soon as there is a Final Winner, competition dies. At any one generation, the Winner gets better profits and the right to compete on the next generation. But you want there to be a runner-up who will viably go on to the next generation, as well.

      We have let Microsoft color our thinking too much, fill us with envy, and convince us that this is The Business Model.
      • Yes, there will not be a Final Winner. But someone will be the best at doing 3D graphics for home PCs.
        Lets argure that nVidia will win that fight, nothing then prevents ATI from integrating their solution into the chipset (or something else), thus eliminating the need of a PCI 3D graphics solution and regaining market shares.
        What I am arguing is that if you can't compete, you will eventually lose if you can't target another audiense (look at cars, a BMW and a Fiat have different target groups with the same type of product).
        • I've been really happy to see the recent see-saw between nVidia and ATI. Nor do I see why we have to have one become best, and remain so. Your BMW and Fiat analogy is great, but neglects the existence of Audi and Chevy, not to mention Ford, Saab, Volvo, etc.

          As far as I can tell, we're the ONLY market so badly dominated. The next closest thing might be soft drinks, with the Pepsi/Coke duopoly. But we have Microsoft and Intel, and until ATI's comeback, it looked like nVidia was going to be IT on PC graphics. (Actually, I think the Pepsi/Coke dupoloy has a worse stranglehold on their industry than Microsoft/Intel on ours.)
    • When a company cannot deliver the best product to the best price they don't get any income. ... The big profit will go to the one making the best product at the best price. (emphasis added)

      No, profits will go to anyone who figures out how to release a product that satisfies some customers. Your belief that you can somehow release the "best product" while simultaneously achieving the "best price" is silly. Generally, price goes up with quality, because there are costs associated with improving quality, and they get passed on to the consumer as increased price.

      There's a curve that you're talking about - to get a higher quality product, you generally have to pay more. If products exist at different points along that curve, it is entirely possible for the companies that produce them to co-exist.

      I could easily see ATI and nVidia fighting for a long time. Just as AMD and Intel. And Sony and Nintendo. And GM and Ford. And McDonalds and Burger King. Consumers win, in this scenario, because they're more likely to find a product that satisfies them - as long as there's no collusion.
  • They made some good cards and i guess you could even call them "the father of the modern video card". Hell, i still have a voodoo banshee sitting in a box under my PC. You can still hear UT running on that Voodoo 3 (at a whopping 30fps...)
  • by Mattygfunk (517948) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:07AM (#4335515) Homepage
    For obvious reasons our source would like to remain anonymous....

    Grrrrr closed source.

    -----
    sexy sexy wallpaper mmmmmmmmmmmm [wallpaperscoverings.com]

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:09AM (#4335530) Journal
    They should have added useful features and clever thinking that circumvented the problems that plagued the other companies. AGP Texture bandwidth could have been solved by texture compression, but S3 ended up doing that. 32 bit colour was implemented by everyone except 3DFX. They could have saved a lot fo bandwidth if they'd have come up with better Z buffer algorithms, but PowerVR did that. They could have added programmable graphics, but that was left to ATI. They could have put T&L on the card, but that was left to Nvidia.

    3DFX failed because they didn't innovate
    • Technology does not solve social issues
      and here it looks like 3dfx did not deliver the technology,
      but IMHO the problem came because their product became a commodity item.
      Frankly, the market for high-end graphics came and went.
      Cheap on-board chips work well for 95% of users.
      In such a market, only a couple of suppliers can remain
      and it will be those with the lowest margins and costs,
      not those with the best technology (which means creative people and higher margins).
    • Still,

      I wonder what nvidia's going to do with the 3dfx and gigapixel technologies...

      h357
    • by CoolVibe (11466) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:01AM (#4335912) Journal
      3DFX failed because they didn't innovate

      No, it failed because of braindead and utterly stupid upper management. Most companies die that way.

      It's always the management that screws it up. Remember that. Read Dilbert. Understand it. Make it your corporate religion. Prevent falling on your face. Oh, and don't forget: laugh.

      • Yep, it's all very simple:

        If a company fails because it tries to do the wrong things, the management is at fault because they are supposed to tell the rest of the company what to do. If the rest of the company fails to do the things the management asks of them, the managers are at fault because they hired these guys.

        In short, always blame the boss when something goes wrong. ;)
      • Oh yeah. It was the stupid upper management that couldn't get designs to tape out successfully. It was the stupid upper management that delivered cards with messed up RGB output and failed to notice it in testing. It was stupid upper management that ignored the AGP spec when designing cards. Of course, how stupid of me!

        And here was I thinking that if the chip teams can't even get red signals coming out of the red outputs on a DAC, it might be their fault!
    • They failed because of stupid managment. Innovation has nothing to do with success. Look at Microsoft and how they are a successful company that hasnt innovated anything but clippy (may there never be a part II) and Microsoft BOB.
    • by Junks Jerzey (54586) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @10:58AM (#4336921)
      3DFX failed because they didn't innovate

      That's silly. 3dfx innovated like crazy:

      * First high performance consumer level 3D card for PCs.
      * First multitexturing in a PC card.
      * First trilinear filtering in a PC card.
      * Glide API, back when Direct3D and OpenGL were poorly supported on the PC.
      * Higher precision color blending with 16 bits per pixel. Operations occurred internally at 22-bits, I think.
      * Able to connect multiple Voodoo 2's together for--what was then--unheard of performance.

      Let's not rewrite history to fit your own ideas, okay?
      • That's silly. 3dfx innovated like crazy:

        And then they sat on their hands for a year while all their competitors lept past them.

      • There was also...
        -first usage of an accumulation buffer ("T-buffer") on a consumer video card, creating the anti-aliasing craze that we have today
        -very fast memory architecture courtesy of Gigapixel subsidiary, said to influence the creation of LMA in the Geforce cards

        Don't forget the Rampage (Geforce 3 killer, taped out days before 3dfx was bought by nvidia, some pictures of it in a lab are floating around on the net) which would have had some features that are only now being explored, such as:

        -ability to accelerate Photoshop filters (potential for 3dlabs new "P10" architecture)
        -maximum memory capacity of 256MB
        -4 way onboard SLI, i.e. scalable multiple chip architecture
        -~12GB/s memory bandwidth, compared to Geforce 3's ~7
    • AGP Texture bandwidth could have been solved by texture compression, but S3 ended up doing that. 32 bit colour was implemented by everyone except 3DFX. They could have saved a lot fo bandwidth if they'd have come up with better Z buffer algorithms, but PowerVR did that. They could have added programmable graphics, but that was left to ATI. They could have put T&L on the card, but that was left to Nvidia.

      3DFX failed because they didn't innovate.


      This analysis doesn't quite work.

      First, you left out Matrox, who were never innovators but who are still around.

      Second, you listed S3 as an innovator, but they're dead, which shouldn't happen if innovation leads to survival, right?

      Finally, 3dfx made at least one major innovation later in their existence: the multi-core graphics card. Okay, so they and ATI may have both done this simultaneously (with the VooDoo 5500 and Rage Fury MAXX, respectively). Still, both companies must have been working on multi-core cards simultaneously for the release dates for their multi-chip products to be so close together.

    • It's interesting that the writer starts out slamming the CEO for not understanding technology and implies that his decisions to try to follow the market for single-board solutions was to blame for the company's demise, but it becomes clear the core problems is the technical teams were incompetant - unable to execute. Chipsets that never worked, DACs that had the colour round the wrong way, boards that were out of spec for AGP support, you name it.
  • Voodoo cards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AliasTheRoot (171859) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:10AM (#4335532)
    At the start of the consumer 3d graphics business Voodoo were clearly superior, I still have a Voodoo 1 laying around somewhere, there were problems; the whole passthrough cable thing, the lack of windowed support & 16bit clour were all problematic. As an upgrade Voodoo offered the second revision that could run in SLI mode. It required two PCI slots in addition to your 2d graphics card and was horrendously expensive.

    nVidia released the TNT that offered similar performance, in one card (not 3!), did 32 bit colour and was significantly cheaper.

    3DFX was never competitive from then on, offering weaker, more expensive products that relied on brand name support.

    The widespread adoption of D3D / OpenGL around this time over the proprietary Glide API was the nail in the coffin.
    • Re:Voodoo cards (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Voodoo II SLI completely creamed all competition at the time. It took the TNT2 chipsets for there to be a serious competitor.
    • The widespread adoption of D3D / OpenGL around this time over the proprietary Glide API was the nail in the coffin.

      AHHHH! Now why did you have to go and mention Glide? You just brought thousands of bad memories rushing back:

      Glide32.dll NOT FOUND.... HAH! you don't get to play this game...
    • Well, not compared to what people will pay today. Do you really need to spend 400-500$ USD on a GeForce 4 or Radeon 9700 Pro? But people do, just like they bought a V2 SLI config back in 1998.

      You might not buy it, but someone does, otherwise they'd not be selling at that price point. Although I'd rather spend the 200$ USD on a good set of console games :)
  • It's a shame 3dfx couldn't innovate and keep up, as I liked their products. The first 3d accelerator I bought was a Voodoo2 Banshee, followed by a Voodoo 3 and a Voodoo 5 5500 (bought 1 week before 3dfx collapsed). In all my time using Voodoo cards, I never once had a problem with them. They were fast for their time, and there drivers seemed to be rock solid stable.

    It's too bad they couldn't keep up with nVidia and ATI, though I must admit I'm loving my shiny new Radeon 9700 Pro....

    • i bought the original voodoo when it was considered to be 'new'(nobody even knew what it was). and boy was the gfx great, glquake made a huge difference for example..

      about the driver support though.. they kept on touting that they would release full opengl drivers instead of the mini-driver for quake, but never did(for original voodoo).

      at voodoo1 time's, there really wasn't _any_ alternative to it, all the other cards were just too slow/featurless/lacking good support(glide was great, and even after v2 came out there was little alternative for the fast 3dgame card.).

      their inability to move to 2d/3d cards was what killed them imho.
  • GLIDE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by muzzmac (554127) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:32AM (#4335676)
    I like many others was not concerned with them going. Thier attempt to lock the market in via the proprietray GLIDE API was a blatant move to control the market.

    I'm happy to see the tail end of any company that does this.

    Thier lawsuit against the guy doing the GLIDE wrapper didn't help improve my opinion of them. :-)
    • Re:GLIDE (Score:5, Funny)

      by Waffle Iron (339739) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:04AM (#4335932)
      I like many others was not concerned with them going. Thier attempt to lock the market in via the proprietray GLIDE API was a blatant move to control the market.

      We're all really fortunate that we avoided the nightmare of being locked in to a proprietary market controlling API from 3DFX. Luckily, we are in a new enlightened age where most games run on an open, freely shared API fostered by a community of the best minds from every segment of the industry. There's no limit to what can be done with our newfound freedom using APIs like Direct3D...

      Hmm, wait a minute...

      • Re:GLIDE (Score:2, Informative)

        by SScorpio (595836)

        Sure Direct3D is a closed source API, there is always OpenGL is you want to use only open source APIs

        The main problem with Glide was that it has created by one company and only that company's products could support it.

        Yeah, Direct3D isn't open for anyone to change, but it is a standard that anyone can create a product that adheres to it. Microsoft also seems to be very attuned to market demands and is keeping good relationships with both nVidia and ATI. These relationships allow Microsoft to know and impliment the new desired features into Direct3D.

        These new features can be added to OpenGL via extensions; however, the extensions become proxitory and your end up with different company's extensions doing the same thing but are imcompatible. At least with Direct3D this doesn't happen

      • Re:GLIDE (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Zeinfeld (263942) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @01:41PM (#4338353) Homepage
        We're all really fortunate that we avoided the nightmare of being locked in to a proprietary market controlling API from 3DFX. Luckily, we are in a new enlightened age where most games run on an open, freely shared API fostered by a community of the best minds from every segment of the industry. There's no limit to what can be done with our newfound freedom using APIs like Direct3D...

        That is precisely the point. Given a choice between having the software standard set by a hardware company and a software company the market has always chosen the software company. It happened on glide and it happened on Windows.

        The reason is very simple, the rival hardware companies are not going to allow their business to be subject to a competitor's control of the interface layer. However 'good' Glide was there was no way that it was in the interests of nVidia et. al. to support an interface controlled by 3Dfx. So it made perfect sense for the rival manufacturers to support DirectX.

        OpenGL suffered from the same problem since regardless of the number of times SGI claimed that it was an 'open standard' the field was tilted from the start in favor of a rival hardware manufacturer that had a very different interest.

        DirectX won because of elementary market dynamics and also because Microsoft presented DirectX as a gaming platform and not as a 3D platform. This was the critical wedge between the game companies and the OpenGL scene. DirectX has features like audio synchronization built into the core. There is simply no comparable standard for audio interfaces - the last attempt I am aware of was Jim Gettys work following on from the X Consortium.

        Three or four years ago The Motley Fool chose 3DFx as a pick for the Fool portfolio. I dropped in on the discussion board and saw all sorts of chatter about how glide was going to rule and so competitors to 3DFx wer dead. I could see then that it was not going to happen and so decided to pass on the investment, just as well I did since it quickly became a dog.

        Basically the only reason why the market ever opts for hegemony is to save itself from an even less tollerable hegemony with interests directly opposed to the stakeholders. That is why it decided that Microsoft was better than IBM and 3Dfx. Compaq, Gateway and the rest could see that Microsoft was an indirect threat while IBM was a direct one.

    • Re:GLIDE (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:44AM (#4336248)
      Actually Glide orignally was a benign move. Back in the day when the Voodoo first was being realised, there weren't any acceptable APIs out there. DirectX was still too primitive to be really taken seriously and OpenGL was just more than the Voodoo could handle quickly. Hence Glide, which was optimised for how the Voodoo hardware worked.

      The first Voodoo really was a pretty amazing hack to make it work at all. When 3dfx first demoed their new card on a simulator, they got laughed at, people said they'd never make it real silicon. It was therough a lot of ingenuity and scaling back features that they managed to build a 3d card at a consumer pricepoint. It was expensive, yes, but not the thousands of dollars pro cards cost.

      Their big problem later was that they really failed to move forward. Technology progressed to the point where you didn't have to make all the compramises and cards like the TNT and TNT2 proved it. Also, Glide was a relic that they should have tried to phase out since DirectX did come to mature and cards had no trouble with OpenGL.
      • When glide was release directx didn't exist at all and they should have just started with "minigl" and skipped the glide thing entirely. Why reinvent the wheel when you can just support a subset of opengl? People can just not use the opengl functions which you don't support, simple as that.

        Instead they created another silly proprietary API which we are now paying for in terms of a lack of compatibility. If they had simply used opengl then we would all be able to run all that old 3dfx-accelerated software on our brand spanking new cards. It wouldn't use all of their features, but so what?

  • What? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "including an employee who forgot to fly to Asia to pickup the first Voodoo5 chips" Because we all know how expensive FedEX is :-)...
  • by ninjadoug (609521) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:40AM (#4335730)
    Makes me wonder how Creative have managed to stay top of the soundcard pile. They seem to have been making consistently the best cards, (apart from a brief time when Gravis Ultrasound marketed using the Demo scene). No-one has really compared for the non-professional market. In fact I cannot think of any other Tech product where the first company to make something is still regarded the best. (Intel excluded) So from a business perspective maybe innovation is not the key but improvement of existing technolagy. Sad but true
    • by Anonymous Coward
      However, they do not appear to be popular, or even widely available, here in Europe. Until extremly recently, every sound card I have ever seen for sale, or installed, or owned myself, has been a Creative card of some description. As it happens, this computer I am using (Company owned) has a Turtle Beach in it, and that is the first time I have ever seen one. At home I currently use the onboard Via 82Cxx Ac'97, because it was there, and it is the first time I have heard on board audio actually sound passable.

      Creative have been at the top of the pile for so long that it is difficult to imagine them going the way of 3dfx. However, sound cards are becoming a comodity item, and it seems that they are bailing out of the low end market as quickly as possible. The low end is being eaten up by integrated motherboard chipsets.

      Well this has certainly been a bit of a rant without much of a point. Or direction. Oh well.
    • There is also the occasion when something is still on top because no one knows better. If you've owned a mobo based on a via chipset, and a creative card. I bet more often then not you had some issues with it.
      I own a Gametheater XP, as well as a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz. Both provide the functionality any offering of Creative can. With a hell of a lot fewer compliance issues.
      I'll admit I have been interested in some of Creatives recent releases, they have a few with an interesting break-out box. But it's still just a different set of knobs on the same broken sound card.
      I wont purchase another Creative at the present time. I'm quite pleased with Turtle Beach and/or Hercules. But one can't predict the future.
      • good to hear someone stick up for the Santa Cruz, I bought one early on and it's a fantastic card. I wish it did EAX as well as the Creative cards, but it's all good.
      • I've got an SB Live Platinum on a VIA-based mobo and it works like a charm, even in Linux. (I had to disable the on-board audio in BIOS before Linux would configure the SB card properly, though, but that's not really something I'd call an "issue" with the mobo --- any conflict with onboard audiowould need to be resolved, no matter what the chipset.) Maybe they do have problems on some boards, though. My mobo is a newer board, and they might have fixed some things.
    • Well creative bought aureal two years ago (creator of the a3d standard) and thus eliminated their primary competitor in the 3d sound market.

      I still have a vortex 2 based card which actually still is a nice card. The only problem is that driver support under win xp/2k and linux is really lousy.

      Next week I'll receive my new PC and my voodoo 3 and vortex 2 cards will be retired.
    • Makes me wonder how Creative have managed to stay top of the soundcard pile. They seem to have been making consistently the best cards, (apart from a brief time when Gravis Ultrasound marketed using the Demo scene). No-one has really compared for the non-professional market.

      Both Gravis and Aureal made better sound chips than Creative, and better cards were made from the chips. Both companies lost to Creative the same way, too: Creative brought massive lawsuits with little merit that lasted so long the companies went bankrupt paying the legal fees to defend themselves.

      In other words, Creative managed to stay at the top of the soundcard pile by legislating anyone that looked competetive out of existance.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, they weren't the first makers of the modern soundcard. I think that distinction would go to Adlib [oldskool.org] not Creative Labs. Creative Labs first showing of a soundcard was the incredibly medicore Game Blaster. We also can't forget the incredible for its time Roland MT32 which still has kick ass Midi today.
    • by Forkenhoppen (16574) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @10:38AM (#4336706)
      Simple; Creative does it with Creative marketing.

      The Audigy, for instance, is little more than a gamer's card. Any serious review of the card that you come across on the internet will tell you this, or if you bought it hoping for some advanced features, you'll find it out for yourself.

      Here are some examples of this Creative marketing:

      - The Audigy does support 24bit/96kHz sound playback, as advertised, but does not actually play it at that. The second it hits the main chip, it's downmixed to 16/44. So while you can play sound at the higher frequency to it, you're not actually going to hear it. (This is what they mean when they plaster 24/96 all over the boxart.)

      - The Audigy does not have independant recording and playback volume controls on the line in. If you wish to record something on a TV tuner, for instance, then you'll have to either listen to it while it records, or turn off the global volume on your soundcard. (Or turn off the speakers.) This makes it impossible to use an Audigy in a PVR setup.

      - The much-touted sub 100dB SNR is only on playback. On recording, the SNR is much higher.

      I haven't been this disappointed in a card since my SB 128 upgrade ran slower than my SB 64. (I suspect the 64 did the soundfonts in hardware; the 128 did them in software.) Looking at the new Audigy 2, it appears that they'll be offering the 24/96 functionality that was insinuated to be present in the original Audigy, but I don't think I'll bite. I think my next card will be a Hoontech.

      And, of course, this is all off-topic..
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2002 @12:05PM (#4337494)
        The Audigy does support 24bit/96kHz sound playback, as advertised, but does not actually play it at that. The second it hits the main chip, it's downmixed to 16/44. So while you can play sound at the higher frequency to it, you're not actually going to hear it. (This is what they mean when they plaster 24/96 all over the boxart.)
        It's actually worse than that. One of the Winamp developers (Brennan Underwood?) did an analysis of the Audigy's audio capabilities, and found that:
        1. The Audigy's driver rejects all audio streams above 16/48. It doesn't even downmix it for you -- it just rejects everything above that outright.
        2. The DACs are 24/96 capable, but the DSP doesn't seem to be. That's how they get away with advertising 24/96.
        3. You could, in theory, get 24/96, but only if you had a 24/96 digital source and outputted it directly to the SPDIF port, bypassing the DSP entirely.
        4. Creative is full of shit.
        Although the last one is not much of surprise to people who dealt with the SB Live! fiasco. (The SB Live!, due to not being 100% PCI compliant, couldn't share IRQs correctly; but ACPI requires that all PCI devices share the same IRQ, so if you had an ACPI-compliant board and OS, you were screwed. Creative's tech support blamed the motherboards, telling people that their boards were unsupported and that they should build new computers with motherboards that didn't enable ACPI's IRQ-sharing feature.)
  • Glide emulator? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by mccalli (323026)
    A lot of games got coded for Glide at that time, making them 3DFX only.

    Are there any Glide emulators around, that convert to OpenGL or Direct3D? That would make these games playable and allow them to take advantage of non-Voodoo accelerator cards.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • 3DFX and Real3D (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BobWeiner (83404) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:56AM (#4335859) Homepage Journal
    I used to work at a company called Real3D. The company was thoroughly mismanaged -- despite having an excellent engineering group. It's a similar tale to 3DFX, only R3D never quite penetrated the market. Eventually the company folded, all the engineers were laid off, and most of them have gone to work for ATI. Whatever was left of R3D was eventually consumed by Intel.

    I remember walking by the manager of engineering 's office -- he was busy day-trading stocks all day. Our marketing department kept trying to add new features to our board (feature-creep-itis), trying to scramble to catch up to the competition. The introduction of new features really pushed back our schedules in a big way.

    Poor management and poor marketing are what really killed R3D.

    • Re:3DFX and Real3D (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I used to work at a company called Real3D. The company was thoroughly mismanaged....all the engineers were laid off, and most of them have gone to work for ATI.....

      Posting anonomously here to protect my buttocks... Once R3D got to that stage it degenerated into trying to extract income from other 3D companies by threatening them with patents. I believe that 3Dfx was one of the companies targetted.

      In particular, they claimed to have invented MIP mapping/trilinear filtering when in fact prior art predated the filing date of the patent. It's enough to make you froth at the mouth.
    • This happens all the time. Most companies out there have really bad management. I used to work at a VOIP company - www.quicknet.net

      They have hands down the worst executive management I have ever seen. They had a truely brilliant engineering team - who were producing some great products - but since the executive team is so incompetant as far as managers go, they lost all their best employees.

      They havent totally died yet - but they are not where they should have been in the market due to their really really poor decisions.

      so - this is normal. Most of the really big companies all have their share of bad management but they have gotten over the hurdle to where they are big enough to survive off of processes put in place when good management was around. If you look at any large organization you will find a certain percentage of driftwood employees and managers who just float through their jobs by creating pointless things to do.
  • Death by arrogance (Score:4, Insightful)

    by John Ineson (538704) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:17AM (#4336028) Homepage
    They day 3DFX bought STB was the beginning of the end. The sheer arrogance of believing they could cut off all their customers and just have the whole business to themselves. That they could compete with both chip *and* board manufacturers, and still come out on top. Sure, they had a head start, but Creative, Diamond, etc, would inevitably throw their considerable support behind another chip company.

    The management overplayed their hand, big style, they were bound to lose. They were just way too cocky. Of course you can see that just from the lunch budget.
  • Seesm to me (last page of the story) that if they did indeed ahve all these projects running concurrently they would have over-burdeoned their engineers.

    There doesn't seem to be enough spread in the sorts of products they where going to fab either. They needed to break out of just pure graphics chips and produce a better range for those on different budgets. It's all well and good shooting for the high end BUT nV still sell bucket loads of TNT2 type cards.

  • by Cinnibar CP (551376) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @10:40AM (#4336721)
    I don't see this as a comprehensive storyline explaining the downfall of 3DFX. The article is poorly written, and there is little detail given to the supposed problems and failures that brought about the downfall. Most of what IS in the story is anecdotal, vague, and opinion. It seems that the author was more interested in listing the historical evolution of the 3DFX product line than giving specific, concrete examples.

    Lacking perspective, it's difficult to see factual evidence backing the claim of expensive (30-50k) monthly lunch costs, and providing drinks and snacks to employees hardly constitutes what I would picture as the cause for downfall of a company. The author vaguely implies that mismanagement and poor allocation of resources is responsible, but hardly gives detail to these claims, preferring to point out the flaws and errors that bypassed QA as evidence.

    The issue where someone "apparently" forgot to go to Asia to pick up a batch of chips is also never elaborated upon.

    Towards the end of the article, the author's writing skills give out and we're bombarded with with specifications for items that failed to reach market.
    • Agreed.

      Additionally, many of the details were wrong--for instance the author mistakenly thinks the V3 started shipping after nVidia shipped the TNT2. In fact, I bought my V3 in Februrary of the same year in which nVidia shipped the TNT2 in June. 3dfx had a big lead in performance which they let slip throught their fingers...it was some 18 months after the the V3 that 3dfx shipped the V5---Had the product shipped on schedule it would have coincided with the GF1 shipment from nVidia--and the V5 would have decimated it in performance. Being 6-7 months late there really hurt 3dfx. It was critical.

      I agree that the company was mismanaged, however, as you say, this article tells us very little and seems to have been written by someone who worked at the company on a daily basis but was actually privy to information only on a scuttlebutt basis--could have been a Q&A or marketing person, for all it sounds like.

      The most egregious errors were about "fear" and "sage", etc. These were if they were anything, concepts--certainly not products in development. 3dfx never got past the V56K stage--my own feeling is that the initial talks with nVidia were on track when 3dfx pulled the plug on the V5 6K. There were some very early crude and buggy prototypes of Rampage, I believe, but the rest of them were purely concept.

      There's a lot to this story and some real insight would be interesting to read--but I doubt the officers in the company are going to air their dirty laundry in public--especially the details about the nVidia deal.

      Why would slashdot think this was an "interesting, behind-the-scenes- look"? Beats me.
    • While I agree the writing style could be cleaned up, I think the author delivers on the promise he he stated in his introduction -- to give a brief overview of what went down during the fall of 3dfx without going into heavy details. Yet you guys are hammering for doing exactly what he said he'd do!

      "Lacking perspective, it's difficult to see factual evidence backing the claim of expensive (30-50k) monthly lunch costs and providing drinks and snacks to employees hardly constitutes what I would picture as the cause for downfall of a company"

      Now you're taking two different things and trying draw a conclusion that the author did not. The author was saying that extravagent spending was the norm at 3dfx, not "free Dorritos resulted in the downfall of this company". And as for as the "factual evidence" is concerned, what do you want? A detailed line item invoice of the catered lunches from month to month? Remember the author only promised an overview.

      Overall I would have liked more detail too, but the article actually did manage to provide new insights and details that weren't covered previously.
  • Ahh... the Voodoo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neonstz (79215) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @11:13AM (#4337062) Homepage

    I remember buying the Orchid Righteous 3D with a whopping 4 MB of RAM back in 1996. The graphics was just incredible. The bundled glide-version of Fatal Racing (or something) was very good, and even got LAN support for multiplayer action. I remember testing glQuake for the first time. I even cracked the first beta-patch for Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider in 640x480, perspective corrected, mip-mapped polygons. It was better than anything else.

    Anyway, Glide was a very lowlevel API which basically just provided a polyfiller. A very fast polyfiller. With perspective corrected texturemapping, gouraud shading and z-buffer. Rewriting a software-rendered game to make it run on the Voodoo was very easy.

  • by DarkHelmet (120004) <.mark. .at. .seventhcycle.net.> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @12:44PM (#4337812) Homepage
    1. 16 bits is enough for everybody. But we don't just do 16 bits. We do internal 32 bits, and dither to 16 bits, so it's much like working with 22 bits.
    2. 256x256 is large enough for textures
    3. Nobody *really* wants an OpenGL ICD. That Carmack, he's such a card!

    The trouble was that they stopped listening to everyone. Their goal was to become an OEM part manufacturer, and to gain name recognition by their 20 million dollar TV ad campaign (which those ads DID make me laugh).

    The 3d card business is a pissing match. 3dfx was dead on when they realized it was a pissing match for speed. What they DID NOT realize is that OEMs like little check marks to assign to their cards. Things such as 32 bit color, z buffer, onboard Geometry, etc.

    No matter how much they screwed up, I still wish 3dfx was around. One more for competition makes the Radeon 9700 cheaper.

    • Their goal was to become an OEM part manufacturer, and to gain name recognition by their 20 million dollar TV ad campaign (which those ads DID make me laugh).

      OH MY GOD! I thought I was the only one that had seem them... Somewhere, I think, I still have them on a hard drive of one of my machines that's been powered off for a while.

      The TV spots they had produced were the absolute best.

      I'll never forget the genetically engineered all white meat turkey as big as the dining room table, or the flying kids that dropped out of the sky!

  • The Voodoo 1 was one of the most ground-breaking pieces of hardware I've ever seen. In an era when a good graphics card would set you back $400.00 (US) and still give you NO 3d acceleration, a day when no one cared about that, the Voodoo 1 came out of nowhere and changed everything.

    While it did have the drawback of needing a 2D video card in your system, it did have the advantage that it simply worked with ANY video card you had. Period. It did what it claimed it would do and it did it well.

    3DFX really pulled a rabit out of a hat with that card. Many people do not remember that the compitition was either laughable (The Verite or the NV1) or so expensive as to be rediculous. 3DFX created a consumer level 3D card at a price point people would accept.

    To do this they concentrated on doing ONLY what was needed. This would later bite them on the ass when they tried to move into the combined 2D/3D card market.

    As for GLIDE, well, there wasn't anything else out there. Direct 3D was a joke at the time and OpenGL didn't even run on Windows 95 (the primary gaming OS of teh day). GLIDE wasn't perfect, and it wasn't portable, but it worked.

    Looking back on the history of the computer (or any other) industry, we can see that the trail blazers often get left behind by the people that follow their lead, and this is what happened to 3DFX. The dicisions that made their product work in the early days (16-bit color, limited texture size, 3D only, etc...) created a foundation of basic technology that held them back later. The minute NVidea came out with the TNT 3DFX' days were numbered.

    I owned a Orchid Righteos 3D, a Canopus Voodoo 1, a Creative Labs Voodoo 2, and a Creative Labs Voodoo 3. They were all great products for their day. There are times that I think about getting my old Voodoo 1 card back from my friend and rebuilding my old gaming rig to play some of my old GLIDE games again.
  • Whenver a company with good engineers but bad marketing dies, not only is there a loss of decent hardware, but also a loss of information. I can't find the original programmers' specs for the Voodoo series anywhere. I used to have the Voodoo3 specs in PDF, but lost it. Does anyone have the Voodoo3 specs? I've got an old voodoo3 sitting around, and I miss hardware level programming it.... 3dfx was the only recent company that was so friendly to Open Source, Free Software, and independent developers as to give out driver source code and hardware specs. Of course, though, some troll is going to try to blame their failure on the fact that they were the only company giving out source code, or that their OSS friendliness was simply a sign of their coming demise...

  • This article really sheds very little light on the demise of 3Dfx. Most of the information is already publicly known. The problem here is that the author was never in a position to know what was really going on, not to mention his writing style is tedious to read.

    Which isn't to say that the last two pages of the article aren't interesting. It's clear the author was either a board designer or working on the silcon somehow. These last two pages help me make that assumption, and the insights as to the future chips are worth reading.

    But because he was stuck in the trenches, he makes these general statements as to what the "board" was doing. Just your typical rumor-mill and water cooler talk you hear at your own office. I started to have tired head after the formulaic writing that in each paragraph read, "3Dfx tech guys did good. 3Dfx managment made poor decision. NVidia catches up." My advice is to skip over the already publicly known information and get to the last two pages which feature chip specs of cards that never made it to market.

  • by Eric Green (627) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @06:38PM (#4340556) Homepage
    When I read the 3dfx article, I winced. The story was so familiar. Let me summarize it:
    1. Bunch of cool geeks come up with great idea, and start a company.
    2. They don't have lots of money, so they release a limited compromise version of the product. Even this version is really cool.
    3. To handle all the sales and manufacturing tasks necessary because of the new best-selling gear, the vulture capitalists call in "professional" management, which might be someone who last ran a garbage truck company, or a carpet cleaning company.
    4. The new management has no understanding of the market, so they look at what the biggest company in the market is doing, and say "We want to do that!".
    5. In the meantime, this bunch of cool geeks is working on the great idea that will be the company's next product. There still isn't lots of money or people.
    6. The new management says "Don't do that, we need this other product first!".
    7. The new management strips the engineering team of the cool product. The engineering team pleads for more good people, but the new management says "that'll hurt our margins too much."
    8. The other product flops.
    9. The cool product has gotten obsolete while the other product flops.
    10. Management panics and hires lots of dunderheads.
    11. Meanwhile, management decides they can make more margin in another business, and put all the money from the sales of the first product into that new business.
    12. The new business flops.
    13. The cool product is being worked on by a few die-hard engineers, but is starved of resources. Delivery date gets shoved off further and further in the future.
    14. Company realizes mistake. Hires a bunch of bodies off the street to work on cool product. Unfortunately, the bunch of bodies are dunderheads and make the project even *LATER*.
    15. The first product becomes obsolete.
    16. Sales plummet.
    17. Company dies.
    I've seen this happen so many times. The point:
    1. *FOCUS*. Choose your niche. Don't try to be all things to all people. Decide exactly what you're going to do, and do that one thing. Only. Diversification is for the Fortune 500, not for a high-tech startup.
    2. *EXECUTE*.
    3. Hire good people when they're available, not when there's a project for them. A good person can always fit into an existing project.
    4. Throwing bodies via mass hiring at a project dooms it to failure, because most of said bodies will be dunderheads. Most good people are available only for short periods of time. You have to hire them when they're available, not when it's convenient.
    5. Professional management is important, but unless you have a visionary at the top who understands the market, the company will lose its focus, thrash around, and die.
    6. *DELIVER*.
  • I was sad to see 3dfx go under because they were offering fantastic Mac support - seperate Mac versions of the cards, online updates, full QuickTime acceleration, DVI output, the works.
    For Mac gamers, the cards were a wonderful (and welcome) addition to the Mac market.

    I would have liked to see 3dfx continue. It would have been nice to have their cards as OEM choices at the Apple Store (they were pushing for that, too..)

    Oh well. Guess I'll get a GeForce 4 Ti in my next Mac purchase... unless an All-In-Wonder comes out for the Mac (and works well)

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