German golem.de features an interview with Terry Makedown about the current situation and the future prospects of Linux drivers for the AMD (former ATI) graphic cards. He makes clear that the legal problems alone are enough to keep the drivers close.
Thanks to German Golem.de we have an excellent interview with Terry Makedon concentrating mainly on the Linux driver development. Since the interview is published in German I will try to give a rough overview of the main points.
Actually the interview was mainly dedicated to the Vista drivers, but since these are coming along nicely the topic shifts to Linux quite fast.
Makedon points out that the driver development efforts for Linux were increased in the last two years. But he also identifies a major problem with the resources: the man power put into the Linux drivers is proportional to the percentage of Linux usage in the world. In the interview he mentions 5 % as an example.
Also, the development focuses on Workstations and professional use. The focus is explicitly not on games on Linux because that is not justified by the current situation in the real world.
Btw., I think that could be a reason why there is still no support for AIGLX in the AMD drivers, but quite nice support for dynamic display switching – although I’m still waiting for a nice GUI.
Anyway, opening the drivers is no alternative for Makedon: first of all there is too much 3rd party technology in the drivers “like for example compression algorithms”. The 3rd party companies certainly wouldn’t allow AMD to release that source code.
Second there is too much IP in the drivers. He compares the situation with McDonalds which will not release the recipe to the sauce of the BigMac also: “It is just not economically justifiable to do that.”
Also, an NDA like Intel uses is not possible because – according to Makedon – there is not “so much 3D intelligence” inside the Intel drivers.
However, he adds that the 2D part is already open source and that there are discussions to also release other parts like the install routines as open source as well. He cannot say never, but that AMD will not take this path for at least the next 6 till 12 months.
The interview closes with the note that it is not a political decision but that the right approach is still missing: “Of course we want to talk with the Linux community to open the code. If it helps to improve our products and doesn’t bring us into legal trouble or brakes our business secrets [...]“.
The golem.de article adds that the current development focuses on the “Catalyst Control Center” – it is supposed to be released for Linux until May 2007.