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January 7th, 2000

[Show Floor] MACWORLD Expo - A Chat with 3dfx Reveals More Details of Their Mac Strategy
by John F. Braun

In a move sure to make Mac gamers rejoice, 3dfx announced that they will be selling their upcoming Voodoo 4 and Voodoo 5 products directly to the Mac market. This is great news based on the problems experienced with their prior strategy of only providing the chip to other Mac companies, and requiring them to provide the drivers to their customers.

We received this information in two batches. First was a press event last evening, where 3dfx folks as well as notable representatives of other companies announced this support. The people who announced support included representatives from Apple, Bungie, MacSoft and GraphSim. We were also treated to two hilarious commercials, where the amazing computing power of the 3dfx chip, which could be used for things like prolonging life and feeding the world, is instead used for gaming. We then proceeded to demo stations where we could actually get our hands on machines using the Voodoo 3 boards, and compare them to ATI offerings.

The second event was a more intimate press meeting this afternoon, where we were able to talk to both business and technical 3dfx representatives. We were pleased to learn that the chip for the new boards, the VSA-100, was designed with cross-platform application in mind. It supports big-endian byte ordering, so maximum speed can be achieved. This is good since the alternatives would be to take a chip designed for the Intel little-endian ordering and flipping bytes, resulting in a major performance hit.

The chip was also designed with scalability in mind, with the possibility of having up to 32 chips working together. This level of performance will only be required for high-end applications such as military simulations, but the consumer products will be offered with up to 4 chips on a board.

Rather than going to the bleeding edge, a 0.25 micron process was used to produce the chip, assuring reliability and availability. This will be very important in light of problems obtaining boards from other manufacturers.

The boards are slated to be released in the retail channel some time during Q2 2000, hopefully at the same time as the corresponding release of the PC versions.

The Mac Observer Spin: This move should greatly improve the position of the Mac as a serious gamer's machine, and also encourage game developers to target both PC and Mac platforms. Since 3dfx is now providing direct support, the fragmented level of OEM support should no longer discourage developers from targeting Mac.

3dfx - MACWORLD Expo SF Special Report

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