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XGI Technology Updates

Hardware

Published on 05 March 2006 01:00 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware
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Rumors have been flying around the Internet early this month in regards to a possible takeover of XGI Technology by ATI Technologies. Initial reports had stated that ATI would acquire XGI on March 03, 2006, however, that date has since passed and we have seen no public word on this matter or official comments. If you will recall, last year there were also speculations of a possible ATI + XGI merger, but those moves were downplayed by the industry and that it would be unlikely if it ever went through. However, it seems as if this possible acquisition is the real McCoy and is likely to proceed. Rumor has it that ATI is in need of some fresh thinking and innovations after NVIDIA had acquired ULi Electronics earlier this year. While ATI was successful in their March 1, 2006 launch of the ATI Xpress 3200 a.k.a. RD580, a Chipset manufacturer take over would be ideal for their expected needs but they have seemed to settle for XGI. One of XGI's current public assets include their premiere PCI Express x16 part that was launched this past November -- the XGI Volari 8300. The Volari XP10 is their alternative PCI Express part. Alternatively, they also offer the Volari V3XT, V8 Duo, and alternative AGP 8x components and then their Z7 solution for servers and thin clients. One of the products discussed here at Phoronix on multiple occasions has been the Volari 8600XT, which is expected to compete with NVIDIA's 6600GT and ATI's X700, however, this product has yet to be released. In addition, XGI has absolutely no direct competition for the NVIDIA GeForce 7 series or the ATI X1000 series. Recently XGI Technology has seemed to be focusing more on the multimedia environment as well as servers and thin clients rather than the gaming and enthusiast market. XGI Technology had begun their operations in June of 2003 as a spin-off of SiS (Silicon Integrated Systems). For additional reference to some of these XGI products we have our Volari 8300 (XG47) Preview, as well as two interviews with XGI officials regarding various matters (including Linux) -- here and here.

In late 2005 we also delivered exclusive news of XGI Technology targeting open-source display drivers that would be licensed under the GNU General Public License. In this article we presented all of the non-confidential information at the time in regards to this matter. Since last year, we had routinely helped XGI in the quest to opening up their Linux, and even Windows, display drivers in hopes of speeding the development process due to below-average experiences that its users face. In fact, it was not until recently that X.Org v6.8.2 was supported as well as the Linux 2.6 kernel. However, there continues to be a great deal of problems with XGI Linux drivers when it comes down to game compatibility, any sort of control panel, and distribution support. In fact, XGI's driver release notes have not been adequately maintained since November 01, 2004. XGI Technology had released its 2D source-code to the general public outside of a Non-Disclosure Agreement; however, there was no 3D support to be seen at that time. While many widely criticize the ATI Linux display drivers for the Radeon series, the XGI Volari Linux drivers are in worse condition. From the XGI OSS article published last year, it was certainly welcomed by the Linux community even if the Volari series are slower than the GeForce and Radeon candidates. After assisting XGI last year, on December 30, 2005 we were told by XGI that we should here an official ruling in regards to their open-source status the first week of 2006; however, to this point we have not heard back from XGI. Whether this high-level meeting has still been postponed (we are aware of the meeting being delayed at least twice in December) or they have ulterior motives for not distributing this information, we do not know at this time. Browsing the XGI Technology website, on this page we had found the following information:

With XGI's open source policy, you have your own freedom to decide what you want to design, what you want to make, in the way you want to do. Please contact XGI representative about our Open Source Policy.

This statement certainly seems revealing that XGI is officially going to open up their drivers under a GNU GPL-like license (as we had originally anticipated) or that they have already done so. The Volari Linux drivers available from the XGI website are the latest of v1.04.13 with a release date of January 02, 2006, which supports the 2.6 kernel and 3D functionality. No 3D source-code can be found in this release while the Windows Reactor R1.09.68 is the latest at this time. Under XGI's secured development area there is also no mention of these open-source drivers. We continually contact XGI in hopes of finding out more information in regards to their software intentions, and will pass along additional non-NDA information upon receiving it. The V5XE product page also states:

Supporting the latest DirectX 9.0 and OpenGL 1.5 specification and flexible source code release strategy, Volari V5XE will be the candidate for your niche 3D applications.

While no media blitz is underway by XGI in regards to these newly founded open-source policies, we do believe at this time under the information we have seen that they are finalizing their driver source-code for public release. What is not known at this time, however, is if the ATI and XGI acquisition is indeed progressing whether ATI will have an influence on this policy. In past unofficial conversations with an ATI Linux developer, he was not too enlightened by XGI's open-source display driver efforts that we had shared, and doubted it would create community developers and ultimately a larger user base. There was, however, an ATI discussion in regards to a server strategy. Could XGI be ATI's future server department? With XGI's current server and embedded products, XGI could theoretically serve quite well as the server branch for ATI. Speaking of which, an official from the server-oriented Tyan had also told Phoronix "XGI being a new player holds a lot of promise through their current and upcoming product line, and I think they are the only competition to ATI at this point". While this may be a bit of forward thinking, this corporate strategy could spawn improved drivers for both of the companies. We will certainly pass along additional public information on these matters upon receiving them and are working on tapping extra information from our contacts. The second week of the month does generally serve as ATI's monthly software ritual, and this week is looking to be no different but could be accompanied by additional an XGI acquisition. The Volari Gamers fan-site has also linked to general information about the set acquisition and a forum topic saying their farewells to this Taiwan-based company.


About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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