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Questioning nVidia's ethics -- part of a larger story

By jredburn in News
Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 03:49:13 PM EST
Tags: Hardware (all tags)

While nVidia may not have the best reputation among the open source crowd, it is hard to deny the quality of their hardware. But it seems they're not quite satisfied with glowing reviews across the 'net. Kyle, at Hard OCP, has posted an editorial "exposing" their strong arm tactics.

At issue is the power nVidia has over most review sites. While some of the larger sites earn enough money off advertising to purchase their hardware for review, most sites rely on review boards from manufacturers. According to an increasing number of sites, nVidia has threatened to refuse boards to any site that shows even a hint of supporting one of their main competitors, 3dfx. A story at hypothermia tells of how the reviewer received email telling him in no uncertain words that "If you wish to continue getting ANY support or product from NVIDIA, you will remove the 3dfx logos from your site."

Other sites have started opening up too. The whole fuss started a few weeks ago at Riva 3d when they posted an open letter claiming nVidia had forced them to remove a favorable review of 3dfx's Voodoo5 5500. While that story cleared up, others have not. A recent story at Fusion Hardware tells their story of dealing with nVidia PR.

After reading these pages, it's hard to like nVidia. But is it just the tip of the iceberg? With recent controversy surrounding Linux reviews being "bought", how widespread do k5 readers think these strongarming tactics are? With the smaller webmaster having little choice if he/she wants to survive, what are the options when the fist of big business comes smashing into your operation?


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Related Links
o Hard OCP
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o Riva 3d
o recent story at Fusion Hardware
o Also by jredburn

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Questioning nVidia's ethics -- part of a larger story | 7 comments (3 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
nVidia is not the only one at fault here. (none / 0) (#5)
by Buck Satan on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 05:38:51 PM EST

It is the sites that are accepting this stuff to review in the first place.

Two magazines that I am very familiar with are Consumer Reports (from Consumer's Union) and QST (from the American Radio Relay League). Both of these magazines are way above board when it comes to reviews. If something is junk they say so. Although I think CR is full of crap when it comes to electronic devices, I do pay attention to their other reviews.

QST is quite a bit like CR when they do reviews. However, they also accept advertising, which CR does not. But, QST will not accept any advertising for a product until they have an actual product to review. They do turn down products from time to time. Keep in mind though that they only do this type of stuff for products which are brand new from brand new companies.

CR goes to the store or whatever and actually buys a product off the shelf, just like you and I do. QST does the same (for products from well established companies). They then review them, tear them apart, beat the hell out of them, etc. etc. etc. Then they sell them.

So, what does this mean? To me it means one thing - they are reviewing actual products that you and I will be buying and not "getting a review unit" or some other thing. The manufacturers are sending out review units for good reason - they want good reviews. They don't want bad ones (who does?). The websites know this. Most of the time the consumer does not.

I know this hardware is expensive. I don't think I could afford to go out and buy one of ever 3D card that comes out just to review it - wish I could, but I can't. But if I could, there is nothing to keep me from doing it and then, after the review, saying "I have such and such for sale" or even putting it on some place like ebay.

These review sites need to get out of the "lets try to get the latest hardware for free so we can play Q3 really really fast!" mode and start giving folks honest reviews. People are going to quickly stop paying attention to them if they don't.

This is a good point. (none / 0) (#6)
by static on Thu Jul 20, 2000 at 07:28:48 PM EST

Completely outside the IT field, Australia has a print magazine called Choice which reviews a lot of consumer products. They don't accept advertising. They don't accept free products. They survive entirely off subscriptions and their own publications. I think the IT industry needs to get closer to this model.

Back in the IT field, I know Tom's Hardware gets ratted on from time to time, but you know up front that he doesn't pull any punches. People respect that. He still gets given hardware by the vendors, but they accept that risk. It's a way of putting politics aside.

Rest assured, if nVidia start making a big stink about these tactics, Tom will comment on it.


[ Parent ]

Nvidia? Who needs em? (2.50 / 2) (#7)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:07:16 AM EST

Honestly, is a couple of percentage points of performance in quake really so incredibly important that people feel compelled to throw morality out the window for it? It is clear, and has been clear for quite awhile that, while Nvidia employees some excellent engineers, the bosses in that company are the scum of the earth. This latest round of exposure just confirms what we knew all along.

It's not like their aren't reasonable alternatives. 3dfx cards may not quite match the performance, but in most cases you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference. And ATI not only has a rock-solid reputation in the areas Nvidia self-evidently sucks at, their newest product is actually a strong competitor to Nvidias best performancewise as well. Check out TomsHardware for details on it if you haven't already.

And of course for any of us that use Linux even part time, Nvidia is right out. Their claims to support Linux (broadcast on many Nvidia serf-sites very frequently) are utter fraud! Binary-only drivers are not Linux support, they are at best proof of total cluelessness. How many Linux-newbies do you think get turned off to Linux every day when they find it impossible to use their Nvidia card in Linux? They are told it's supported, they can get drivers, but the drivers are half-assed broken things that will work for a specific kernel, compiled with specific options, on a specific (x86) platform, and maybe work for a few minor revisions on either side of it. Linux just doesn't work that way - but Linuxnewbies who don't understand the issue and only know what Nvidia and their serf-sites tell them are just going to wind up deciding that Linux, not Nvidia, sucks.

Nvidias claims that they can only release binary only drivers because they must protect their IP are quite frankly horse pucky. Whether or not their suits actually believe said horse pucky, it stinks just the same. Nvidia makes their name on the cutting edge - a competitor that waits for them to put out a card and then copies it's functions would be cutting their own throat. Yes, having the source code could make the copying a little quicker and easier, but it's still old tech by the time the card is released, and even older tech by the time it's cloned. In the meantime Nvidia has the next best card rolling out and a clone of yesterdays tech is not any big threat at all. Actually, Nvidia would be in a much better situation if their competitors were doing this - since it would guarantee they were always a generation ahead of the competition. Their competitors, quite frankly don't strike me as stupid enough to waste their resources on such idiocy.

Is Nvidia deliberately releasing broken drivers just to turn newbies away from Linux? I very much doubt that. It is much more reasonable to think that they are doing this for the same reason they are bullying these web sites - arrogance and ego. Access to the source for an Nvidia driver is no boon to the competitors for the reasons above, but it certainly is flattering to the egos at Nvidia to imagine that it would be.

At any rate, if you care at all about ethics, or using Free Software (I've been talking about Linux because that is what they claim to support, but of course the BSD heads count too) Nvidia just isn't a competitor. I honestly think it's great that they are pissing all over these web sites and making lots of enemies among their core market, and I hope they don't learn their lesson but instead intensify their use of these tactics as much as possible, because the sooner this company goes tits up the better. 3dfx or ATI will get their market share, and with it improved economies of scale, and with that come lower prices on hardware that IS supported. Oh, and a lot of excellent engineers will be looking for work - I am sure 3dfx and ATI will have some job openings for them too.

Questioning nVidia's ethics -- part of a larger story | 7 comments (3 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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