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Actually, it wouldn't matter since floating-point textures are also patented (by SGI). This basically means that modern rendering techniques cannot be implemented at all on the open-source drivers.
I don't understand how people can get away with stuff like this. People have been working with FP pixel vectors for decades now. One would think using FP on an ASIC to improve accuracy would be a natural and obvious step to take and not grounds for a patent.
You cannot do proper HDR, high-quality shadows or ambient occlusion without floating-point textures. Moreover, you cannot implement deferred rendering which is quite a big loss in terms of visual potential.
Ogg is technically superior to mp3. Unfortunately, there's no such alternative to floating-point textures. These patents confine Mesa to early R300/400 (~7 years old) graphical capabilities and guarantee that things like Unigine won't be able to run there at all.
Right, because Unigine (at least Heaven) uses all of the above, doesn't it?
And to think, I used to work literally nextdoor to the SGI headquarters. SGI used to be a huge booming business with offices all over the world and a growth curve comparable to Google; now they are more or less confined to one single-story edifice in Sunnyvale, CA. They had a nice cafeteria and our building didn't have a cafeteria at all, so sometimes my coworkers and I would go over there and buy lunch. Easier than hopping in the car to drive to a nearby food joint.
I'd wager that even most of SGI's old, loyal, professional 3d rendering customers have since moved on to NVIDIA, so what's keeping all those people employed? You guessed it. Patent royalties.
That's not to say I support what they're doing, of course; the greater good that could come about if their patents (let alone all software patents in general) were eliminated would far outweigh the good that is generated from keeping one or two-hundred upper-class citizens well-fed and taken care of.
I just wish I had taken the opportunity to sit down at the lunch table with one of their managers and listen to them try to justify their actions. But I was more naive about open source issues, and completely clueless about software patents, back in those days.
I wonder: this describes "a computer system, comprising: a processor for performing geometric calculations [...]" which seems to indicate hardware rendering. IANAL, but from my armchair this *might* serve as a loophole for software rendering, at least.