The Idiots Make Stuff Up: Is Apple Looking Elsewhere for Its 3D Cards? July 13th
Gary: Hey, Randy, did you hear? Apple announced that it is going to buy 3-COM, and make the Palm Pilot a must-have Maccessory that every Windows user will drool over.
Randy: I shall call you MiniMac.
Gary: Sure, Apple will still make a killing selling Palms to Windows guys, but MiniMac will be the Palm to have because of its tight integration with the Mac OS.
Randy: Actually, we just made that up, folks. The Idiots usually don't deal in rumor-mongering, because of just this. A completely fictitious statement that looks good like this often gets enough coverage over the Internet that it can even affect Apple's stock price.
Gary: Remember, when MSNBC picked up a completely unfounded report that the P1 portable was in danger of being scrapped? Of course MSNBC wants to put up some bad press about Apple! I mean, it's called Microsft-NBC, for cripes sake!
Apple's stock price took a hit, but other analysts quickly debunked the story.
Randy: Another rumor began making the rounds last week that could affect the future of Mac gaming. It went like this: Apple is unhappy with ATI's ability to deliver its 3D cards (pretty likely), and dismayed at the state of ATI's drivers (almost a given).
Gary: So, is Apple looking elsewhere for its future 3D cards? Since we do not engage in this type of speculation, we can't say.
Randy: Man, this column seemed much shorter than usual.
Gary: Oh, what the hell. Let's talk about it.
Randy: Will you make up your mind? I was already on my way to play in the wading pool.
Gary: Sorry. Back to business.
Well, Apple should keep its 3D options open, and there are other attractive offerings for PC that claim higher performance than ATI cards. That combined with ATI's Mac troubles make this a rumor of particular interest to Mac gamers everywhere.
Randy: The problem is not ATI Technologies' ability to create great graphic chipsets, it's ATI's ability to produce enough of these chipsets to supply Apple, the individual users who buy ATI cards and the PC card market as well. Don't get us wrong. ATI has been a great supporter of the Mac. Even when everybody and their dog was fleeing from the Macintosh market a few years ago, ATI stayed solid in their support for Apple. For a few years there, ATI pretty much was the choice if you wanted a 3D card for your Mac.
Gary: Now times have changed and there seems to be a healthier market for 3D cards built for Macintosh machines, even though it could be a lot better. Companies like VillageTronic, the late great Micro Conversions, Mactell, and ix Micro all have come out with solid offerings for the Mac. However, Apple didn't forget who stuck with them during the lean years. When Apple looked for a vendor to supply the cutting edge graphics chips for the ever schweet blue and white G3s, ATI was the obvious choice. With the stunning 128 RAGE chipset and a great Mac history, ATI accepted the challenge.
Randy: Here is the rub. The 128 RAGE chipset has become too popular. While Apple gobbles up every 128 RAGE card ATI can make for Macintosh computers, PC users are chewing through every other 128 chip ATI can pump out. This doesn't even count all the Mac owners that are hoping to upgrade their current machines with RAGE 128 cards, like me!
(Begin wavy ripple effect as Randy remembers the past )
I remember it as if it were only last March. Come to think of it, it was last March when I placed my order with Small Dog Electronics for a RAGE 128 Xclaim VR card to replace my old ATI Xclaim VR RAGE II card. I was so excited when ATI's web site said cards would be shipping as of March 5 for the general public.
Then the press announcements started showing up on the web. The RAGE 128 cards would be delayed until the end of April because of the high demand Apple had placed on ATI to deliver chips for their hot new Yosemite box. So I took a deep breath and waited patiently.
The news came that ATI would not be shipping cards until the end of May. I became to grind my teeth as I saw more and more titles coming out that required high-end 3D acceleration. Dark Vengeance, Unreal and Klingon Honor Guard were looking pretty shabby on my RAGE II chip, but I vowed to myself that I could wait.
Finally, the announcement came that all shipments of RAGE 128 cards would be delayed until June. I called Small Dog to confirm this and they apologized but said it was true. They also said they had plenty of angry customers like myself, but that they would notify me as soon as they received a shipment. That was it! I could wait no longer. Realizing I might never have my promised ATI 128 card, I decided to buy a Mac Magic VooDoo 1 card as a tide-me-over measure. My thinking was this: Certain games are 3Dfx only, and Voodoo 1 doesn't support video or 2D acceleration so a Voodoo 1 card working together with my vaporware ATI 128 card would be an ideal solution, eventually.
(Wavy effect fades away)
Gary: That's what happens when you fantasize? Pretty lame there, buddy.
Randy: Jump to today. After yet another press release from ATI that all shipments of RAGE 128 cards would be delayed until some time in August, I have canceled my order with Small Dog and I am continuing to game on my Voodoo I card. In fact, ATI has already announced the next generation 128 bit RAGE PRO cards while people are still waiting for the first version of the 128 card. Kind of ridiculous. They are pushing users to buy a product that isn't even in production yet, while they can't even deliver the current product to all their thousands of backordered customers.
Gary: If you, the home game master, think this situation sounds annoying, just think how Steve Jobs feels. As history has documented, Mr. Jobs can be an impatient man, especially when it comes to incompetence. The fact that ATI is far behind in their production of the RAGE 128 chipsets, not to mention the sorry state of ATI's drivers for these cards, which have been buggy from the start, can only serve to push Steve further into looking at other chip suppliers.
Randy: Steve Jobs also said that he wanted to have the fastest 3D graphics available on Macs. A couple of other 3D cards manufacturers claim their cards are the performance kings.
Gary: One, a company called Formac, has a datasheet online which claims it ProFormance 3 card is up to 163% faster (79.5 fps vs. 49.6 fps in Quake) than ATI's cards, and they will soon be available for your PCI-equipped Mac.
And nVidia, the maker of the very popular TNT graphics cards for the PC world is rumored to be working on a Mac driver for its offerings. Their TNT2 card is AGP (advanced graphics port) only for the time being, but rumors cover this as well. One rumor says the next generation Poer Macs will have AGP onboard, and another says that nVidia is planning a PCI version of the card.
There is also a rumbling of something mysterious brewing at MacTell though despite our full knowledge, we can't speculate as to its nature.
Randy: Basically, whatever made up stuff you believe, they've got you covered.
Gary: So, if these cards are faster than ATI's, and Steve wants the fastest 3D in the world, maybe there is a possiblility that another company will be supplying the graphics cards for future Macs. Mac users do deserve the fastest 3D in the world.
Randy: Then again, maybe we just broke our own rule and spread misinformation all over the web that will destroy ATI and cripple Apple's ability to deliver cutting-edge machines.
Gary: Who knows?
Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.
The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.
You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .