With the new Linux (and Solaris) driver release just hours ago, this serves as the inaugural release for 2006 (unless of course, counting the 1.0-8183 display drivers). This NVIDIA 1.0-8756 release fits in line with NVIDIA's Linux release cycle that has become pretty much standard -- being an approximate 4 months/3 weeks/4 months, with the previous 1.0-8178 release falling towards the end of the December. This also means we should anticipate another driver release towards the end of April or early May. The next minor release may coincide with the X.Org 7.1 launch. After that, we are likely to see no major releases (at least those made available from nvidia.com) until September or October of this year. Of course, this is simply a general overview and the release cycle is always capable of changing.
The upcoming minor release should also mark the end of the 1.0-8XXX series. Presently the NVIDIA Linux drivers are at 1.0-8756 while the Windows ForceWare are officially at 84.21 (WHQL). In this time until the next major release, we are anticipating that the 1.0-9XXX series will make its premiere. When the Rel80 1.0-8XXX launched, there were a great deal of attention grabbing features implemented for the Windows drivers, and a handful for Linux and Solaris. Some of the highlights included Scalable Link Interface (SLI) support as well as the nvidia-xconfig utility. When the NVIDIA 1.0-7XXX drivers were introduced, they were also home to a great deal of changes. Of course, NVIDIA isn't in the mood to squeal all the details early, however, we have a few conservative speculations as to what the 1.0-9XXX series may hold in store for alternative OS users.
For one, the NVIDIA installer is long over-due for an overhaul. If you will recall, the installer in its current form was initially delivered with the 1.0-4349 drivers on March 31, 2003. While ATI began offering their display drivers as RPMs, with their v8.14.13 release last year they turned to a new graphical installer option. This new installer not only made it unnecessary to drop to stop X in order to run the installer but it also features the capabilities of generating distribution specific drivers. In fact, almost with each new release additional distributions are added -- ATI has done any EXCELLENT job with getting distribution vendors to join their Beta program and to provide installation compatibility. With that said, we imagine NVIDIA will finally take on ATI with a graphical (likely GTK based) installer in the Rel90 drivers. NVIDIA also has room to make improvements with its NVIDIA Settings utility. While nvidia-settings may be more robust than fireglcontrolpanel (at this present time), the Linux drivers are of course a long way from catching up with the Windows options. Both companies do, however, have viable text-based configuration utilities. On top of that, the OpenGL GLX_EXT_texture_from_pixmap extension will be finalized shortly to allow for Fedora Rendering Project AIGLX compatibility.
While NVIDIA appears to have no large incentive for improving the quality of its SLI support, the 1.0-9XXX series may be home to a couple of multi-GPU related changes. If NVIDIA does stand by their four month escapades, the 1.0-9XXX drivers should also contain support for new GPUs and products to be released later this summer. Today's 1.0-8756 release also contained improved power management support on recent kernels, while ATI has largely been leading the way with Linux mobile advances. ATI had begun by porting PowerPlay to Linux, as well as other power-saving features, and they will likely continue to implement additional advancements for mobile users.
One feature that many users had also hoped to make their way into 1.0-8756 drivers was H.264 hardware support and other NVIDIA PureVideo features. Depending upon how ATI plays their Linux cards with Avivo, additional video and display options could likely find their way into the 9X series. Finally, the NVIDIA Linux 1.0-9XXX series will likely bring to the table a few other features, more information is to come. It is important to reiterate that the information today has not been officially confirmed by NVIDIA, however, these are relatively safe speculations as to what features will make their way into NVIDIA's next Linux software installment due out later this year.