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Thread: Mixing open and closed source

  1. #21
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    Hi bridgman. I'm encouraged to see that the corporate culture at AMD is such that you feel free to openly participate in this forum.

    It sounds to me like the strategy of AMD with regard to open source, DRM, etc. is going to evolve in response to customer demand (where by "customer" I include OEM of course).

    I wonder what sort of process you can use to hear back from the open-source-using customers. I know that you have strong communications channels with OEMs, of course, and through your end-user support process you probably get feedback from proprietary-driver users, but I suspect there's a communications disconnect from the open-source-using customers (like me) to you.

    For almost everyone that I know, the question that is asked is "What's the best/cheapest graphics hardware that I can buy today which will work with 100% Free Software/Open Source drivers?". The answer to that question changed dramatically when AMD/ATI opened up and the radeonhd project took off.

    However, for me and all the people I know, the point of contact between myself and AMD has been limited to when I bought the card down at Circuit City and thus sent a few dollars back up the channel towards you.

    I had no way of communicating to you that the reason I chose that card was that the radeonhd project listed it as a supported card, for example.

    I dislike DRM so strongly that I will tend to avoid supporting products which offer even *optional* support for DRM. For example, all other things being equal, I would prefer to buy a card that does *not* support DisplayPort, because the DisplayPort standard is tainted with the stench of DRM in my mind.

    I can probably name a hundred people that I am friends with, or work with, or cooperate on open source projects with, who have substantially the same opinions and buying habits that I do, but I don't know if AMD has any process for learning about this subset of its customers.

    Thanks for listening.

    Regards,

    Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn

  2. #22
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    It sounds to me like the strategy of AMD with regard to open source, DRM, etc. is going to evolve in response to customer demand (where by "customer" I include OEM of course).
    This is one of the big challenges for everyone -- is "majority rule" (ie listen only to what the OEMs want) the best way to run things ? We don't think so but practically speaking it's where you have to start.

    I wonder what sort of process you can use to hear back from the open-source-using customers. I know that you have strong communications channels with OEMs, of course, and through your end-user support process you probably get feedback from proprietary-driver users, but I suspect there's a communications disconnect from the open-source-using customers (like me) to you.
    Not as much as you think. The problem has been figuring out how to deliver what you want without putting the rest of our business at risk. What you've probably seen over the years is that as we get bigger we are able to listen to more points of view and factor them all into our planning, and now it's your turn.

    The Catalyst drivers were the first big step, I guess -- in response to the fact that OEM priorities and end-user priorities were sometimes out of sync. Catalyst was basically two things -- setting up mechanisms to feed end user issues into the development pipe (via customer support) and externally releasing drivers on a schedule that could keep up with ongoing changes in the market (new games, apps, OS changes etc..).

    Until recently the Catalyst model was aimed at Windows only, but as you've probably seen we are taking steps to include Linux in the initiative. We'll talk about it more in the Q&A, but the quick answer is "yes we are putting process in place". Part of the reason I'm hanging around here is to help figure out what that process should be.

    It's worth mentioning that we have been moving towards this for a couple of years, but mostly behind the scenes. We didn't have the Linux resources to handle 1:1 interaction with customers, but we did set up the beta program (early 1:1 with a small set of customers), and we did actually look at the external Bugzilla reports even if we didn't respond or update the bugs ourselves. For the record, when I say "we" I mean Matthew, his team, and his management -- I only became involved in Linux recently through the open source project.

    Since we happen to be first to market with Display Port but within a year everyone will have to support it, I would ask you to consider "not using it" rather than "not buying products which support it"

    Here's a question for you. Do you think the Linux consumer market is going to grow substantially from its current size (I mean 10x minimum, not 20%/year), and do you think that growth will be able to happen without an OEM-friendly solution for playing DVDs, HD/BD etc ? The new crop of users are presumably giving up Windows for Linux, so they more than anyone will be influenced by the features available on Windows.
    Last edited by bridgman; 02-02-2008 at 10:57 AM.

  3. #23
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    Do you think that LinDVD is a good player? I really doubt that because it is very old. A new one with HDDVD/BD support would be really interesting, there are patches for mplayer to handle unprotected files, but the cpu usage is pretty high. And I guess Linux HW accelleration will not happen too soon, maybe quad cores will help...

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman View Post
    Here's a question for you. Do you think the Linux consumer market is going to grow substantially from its current size (I mean 10x minimum, not 20%/year), and do you think that growth will be able to happen without an OEM-friendly solution for playing DVDs, HD/BD etc ? The new crop of users are presumably giving up Windows for Linux, so they more than anyone will be influenced by the features available on Windows.
    10x growth of course can never happen. Even 20% per year is much. I think this is approximate growth rate of Firefox.

  5. #25
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    Bingo.

    The reason I picked 10x is because that is (VERY VERY VERY roughly) where the Linux consumer market becomes big enough to pay for the creation of graphics HW products positioned more-or-less specifically for that market. Without that kind of growth, Linux consumer users need to leverage HW developed for other markets, and those products *are* going to have to have DRM embedded in them.

    All the HW vendors have to deal with this reality -- I just happen to be here talking about it. The challenge for the HW vendors, IMO, is how we minimize the impact of that "necessary evil" on the open source community.
    Last edited by bridgman; 02-02-2008 at 11:43 AM.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman View Post
    Bingo.

    Without that kind of growth, Linux consumer users need to leverage HW developed for other markets, and those products *are* going to have to have DRM embedded in them.
    Well i believe this is a matter of education. People start to suffer too much from drm and they are getting angry (and you should when you loose all your music just because the computer for which the key of the drm was generated just die). In my every day life i see a lot of people not aware but neverless suffering from drm they just don't understand what it's. I am sure that the music and movie industry would have to change their politic as more of their customer will become unhappy of the constraint imposed by drm.

    Side note i am pretty sure that most people aware of this things don't buy stuff with drm in it (at least i don't and i won't).

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by glisse View Post
    Well i believe this is a matter of education. People start to suffer too much from drm and they are getting angry (and you should when you loose all your music just because the computer for which the key of the drm was generated just die). In my every day life i see a lot of people not aware but neverless suffering from drm they just don't understand what it's. I am sure that the music and movie industry would have to change their politic as more of their customer will become unhappy of the constraint imposed by drm.
    I agree completely. Having said that, most of the real pain of DRM only really comes out when dealing with downloaded content, and so far that mostly applies to audio. As a result, the consumer backlash is mostly on the audio side, and that is where you are starting to see responses from the content owners (ie "record companies"). On the video side, pre-recorded media still dominates (most video jukeboxes are DVD carousels rather than HD arrays holding ripped movies) so the pain is much less today.

  8. #28
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    bridgman:

    Thanks for the quick and courteous reply.

    Certainly the Linux consumer market won't grow 10x. Microsoft has stumbled badly with Vista, but Mac rather than Linux will benefit, and anyway Microsoft will get its feet back under it soon enough.

    I wouldn't ask you to waste your company's resources serving a niche market -- I was suggesting only that you try (even more) to understand the people in that market, because such niches turn out to be important sometimes. I'm guessing that you don't have any automated process for tracking the evolution of my niche.

    How to do such tracking? I'm not sure. You participating on this forum is a good start, but such participation gives you only a limited sample, of course. Hopefully companies like Novell/Suse and Canonical can give you good insight -- I don't know.

    By the way, much of what you said in your reply -- about "Catalyst" for example -- was somewhat irrelevant to me, because I'm not interested in linux, I'm interested in free software / open source (and also in complete freedom from DRM). I'm not really sure what "Catalyst" is, even though I've been a loyal purchaser of ATI hardware (and also AMD hardware) for many years. Before the radeonhd project, I was on the verge of buying a new graphics card to build my wife's new workstation -- it was going to be a Radeon 9250, which was known to work well with the 'radeon' driver. After the announcement of radeonhd, I bought her a Radeon 2400 Pro.

    Here is a forum that you could look into which represents a related but different point of view than does Phoronix: LWN.net. There have been two topics this week that are relevant to your business:

    http://lwn.net/Articles/267048/

    http://lwn.net/Articles/267436/

    I suspect that the subscribers to and contributors to LWN.net are almost a completely non-overlapping set of people from the folks on phoronix.com.

    Regards,

    Zooko Wilcox-O'Hearn

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman View Post
    See above. I cringe every time I see an article implying that we invented DRM or are pushing it ourselves. I don't even like TALKING about DRM here for the same reason -- people start thinking it's our idea and we should "just say no". I wish it were that simple.
    I agree with you there, the HW manufacturers are NOT to blame for doing what M$ tells them to, but regardless of the cause, the consumer is still the one getting the shaft.

    Quote Originally Posted by bridgman
    Most of our sales are to big OEMs. OEMs want Windows WHQL certification from Microsoft. WHQL certification requires DRM support. If we say "no thank you, we don't want to participate in your DRM ideas" then OEMs will just buy from someone else, and the biggest chunk of our market disappears. It's possible that there might be a retail market that would accept uncertified Windows drivers and all the hassles which go along with them, but realistically I think we would be talking about Linux-consumer-only products.
    I've got another big market for you: Disenfranchised XP users. At my lan parties my friends who could afford them, are using high end NV/ATI DX9 series cards. If you'll look at the Steam Hardware Survey over 82% of people are using XP. Also notice that ATI is taking a HUGE beating on their current high-end vid cards. M$ had better be subsidizing AMD/ATI like crazy because nobody is buying their stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zooko
    I can probably name a hundred people that I am friends with, or work with, or cooperate on open source projects with, who have substantially the same opinions and buying habits that I do, but I don't know if AMD has any process for learning about this subset of its customers.
    Perhaps AMD could create a web form where a person could input serial #'s from AMD/ATI products that they own (to show that they are legit customers) and leave comments/suggestions. If you got the word out about that, I'm sure you'd discover a big section of your market that is being turned off by recent hw trends.

  10. #30
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    Yeah, that's a tricky one. Linux is different things to different people. For some, it's the embodiment of free and open software; for others, it's the dominant Unix-like operating system for those who want the benefits of a Unix-like system and it's free-ness is largely irrelevant. The workstation business, for example, loves Linux but doesn't care about free and open software. That's because workstation used to be a Unix market until inexpensive Linux distros almost wiped out the commercial Unix business.

    I do keep an eye on LWN, but they don't get much into GPUs much so when they do it tends to be more of a Slashdot-like feeding frenzy than the more reasoned discussions you see here. LWN is definitely interesting reading and gives a wealth of information in non-GPU areas but I have a tough time getting a clear "what does a GPU customer look like ?" picture from LWN.

    I agree that the two groups don't overlap much.
    Last edited by bridgman; 02-02-2008 at 02:20 PM.

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