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.