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Looking ahead by looking backwards

Posted: 10.24.02

It seems like a good time to reflect on the year past. If you look at the stock trends for the year and project them forward, the JPR graphics index goes to zero February 7, 2003, and the Dow Jones Industrial Index goes to zero some time in 2005, which of course is ridiculous and merely exemplifies the absurdity of using history to predict the future—you can’t drive a car forward by looking in the rear-view mirror. But, you can, hopefully, learn a few lessons about what to avoid in the future—who hasn’t said, “If only I could do it over?” And what engineer hasn’t been able to make version two much better than version one? So there are historical lessons to pay attention to.

However, that does not change the fact that 2002 was not a great year for a lot of people. Personal wealth took a severe hit, jobs were eliminated, the economies of most countries in the world have gone into deficit (if not already there), and there looms on the horizon the threat of a war no one seems to want except some old men in Washington who won’t have to fight it.

There have been rays of hope: U.S. Consumer spending has been up, and consumer confidence is increasing. Components used to build computers like power supplies and semiconductors are improving (up 20% from October 2001 to October 2002), indicating, in this world of JIT, that orders are being placed. Retailers are giving cautious signs of encouragement for the holiday season; with on-line sales the holiday selling season should be pretty good. Can we, should we, project that and draw conclusions from that? No, but it can be factored in.

I’ve listed some of the high points of 2002 in the various segments. Every time I do this I get email from those I forgot or didn’t list correctly. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Really.

Graphics chips

• 3Dlabs introduced the P10 and took first place as the most programmable graphics engine.
• ATI introduced the R300 core and the Radeon 9000 family, putting ATI back in the game and at the head of the table.
• Matrox introduced the 3-headed Parhelia-512.
• Nvidia introduced the NV25 and NV17 GeForce4 series of chips and family of AIBs.
• Nvidia introduced the NV30, and parts are expected from it early next year.
• S3 introduced their AlphaChrome series of GPUs and hinted about its 2003 killer part.
• SiS introduced the Xabre and was first to show and sell an AGP8x part.
• Trident introduced the Xp4 tiling engine GPU and claimed the best price-performance position.

IGC/Ps

• ATI entered the IGC/P market with their 300 series.
• Intel introduced the good-enough titling engine 845G and its variants and took major market.
• Nvidia entered the IGC/P market with the nForce series.
• SiS introduced their P4 650 IGC for the 266 MHz FSB.
• VIA introduced their KM and P4M desktop and KN and PN mobile 266, and was first with a 266-MHz FSB IGC.

Video/TV

• ATI introduced the AIW 8500, 9000, and 9700.
• Nvidia introduced the Personal Cinema.
• Pinnacle introduced the Bungee, and then the much-improved PCTV Deluxe.
• Silicon Image introduced the SiI 1162 bringing video to the Intel 845g.
• ViewSonic introduced the NextVision.

Handhelds

• NeoMagic brought out their MiMagic 3 SOC.
• MediaQ introduced the MQ1168 and MQ1188.
• Epson introduces SIC38000 with embedded ARM core.

DVD

• Pioneer, Panasonic, and Samsung introduced multi-DVD that does ­R, -R/W, and RAM.
• Sony ended the war and introduced Dual DVD that does ±R and ±R/W.

Software

• ATI introduced RenderMonkey.
• Microsoft brought out MediaCenter 9, and sent out beta copies of DirectX9.
• Microsoft introduced HLSL 1.0.
• Nvidia introduced Cg.
• OpenGL group announced it was working on OGL 2.0.
Companies and industry
• 3Dlabs was acquired by Creative Labs.
• ATI acquired FireGL division from SonicBlue.
• ATI acquired NxtWave.
• Bitboys exited the GPU race and entered the handheld world.
• Elsa AG shut down and Neue Elsa GmbH started up.
• VIA introduced the quiet PC.
• VisionTek shut down and BFG started up.

It was a year that seemed to go on forever, and yet fly by. I flew about 110,000 miles, attended 19 conferences and four analysts’ meetings, and spoke at six congresses, and still there were events we missed—does that sound like a depressed economy to you? Yes, none of those conferences were the size they were a few years ago—but they were still running.

When we come back from the holidays we will publish out Industry Leader of the Year and Segment Leader of the Year winners.

Here’s hoping you and your family have a wonderful and relaxing holiday season. We’ll be watching HDTV and building a home entertainment system out of PC parts we’ve scrounged from our clients and friends. If you get bored, come on up to the mountain and help me.