It's no secret that ATI Technologies has had a rough time in the past delivering display drivers that met the expectations of their customers. When ATI started out producing a FireGL and Radeon Linux driver they for some time were greatly behind NVIDIA's feature-rich driver. The early ATI Linux drivers had lacked essential functionality such as PCI Express and x86_64 architecture support and was also affected by stability and performance problems along with a great deal of bugs. However, over time many of these issues have been worked out and ATI has dedicated more resources to the advancement of their Linux software, but that's not to say they have been sailing smoothly. It had taken ATI approximately six months to deliver Radeon X1000 (R500) Linux product support and it is going on a year now that they have been lacking AIGLX support for Compiz and Beryl. Their current generation fglrx Linux driver is also handicapped when it comes to the performance capabilities with the fglrx driver performing much slower than the Windows ATI Catalyst driver and that of NVIDIA's driver. While ATI/AMD is working steadfast in addressing all of these issues and further enhancing their level of Linux support, many of their customers do not realize all of the work that goes into these drivers. You don't need to go far to find Linux users flaming about the lack of a particular feature or those bashing the driver over an experience they had years ago, but these consumers often do not realize the time invested into these drivers and that ATI/AMD is doing something about improving these drivers.
Last year when AMD announced their acquisition of ATI it led many to wonder how this would impact the quality of their Linux support and driver. Some had even speculated that AMD would be opening the code to at least a subset of their graphics drivers, and while this issue has come up again more recently, we will cover this particular topic in a different article. In this article we will be exposing what truly consists of the ATI/AMD driver development cycle and ultimately what they are really doing to improve their image in the Linux community. We have been granted unprecedented access to share with you their once unknown driver development model.