A lot of innovative devices have power to change the future of many industries. The changes, however, are not happening overnight, a lot of work has to be made in order to materialize an idea or a concept and then leverage it until a strategic inflection point is reached. Sometimes, those market changing events happen as a result of strategic shifts, sometimes the events create propositions for strategic changes.
In this editorial we will examine a number of decisions by various companies and various people that were the most important for the personal computing industry in the last decade in our point of view. Some decisions created giant companies, other reshaped markets, yet others set industrial trends. All of those decisions eventually formed today's IT industry and will continue to have influence on the market for years to come.
2000: Nvidia Acquires 3dfx: a New Era in PC Graphics Begins
The factual bankruptcy of 3dfx and the acquisition of its assets by Nvidia Corp. may not belong to the greatest decisions of the last decade, but certainly to important ones. This event bridges the late nineties and the early oughts on many levels: the takeover of 3dfx marked the beginning of the "gathering of stones" era, which involves massive strategic acquisitions and creation of mega corporations.
3dfx Interactive was established in 1994 and released their first commercial product in 1996. The legendary 3dfx Voodoo graphics accelerators were only compatible with the company's proprietary Glide application programming interface (API) that ensured maximum performance. The creativity and pragmatism of people developing the 3dfx hardware was admired at first and then hated later.
The problems at 3dfx began along with the mass emergence of popularity of open standards like Direct3D and OpenGL. Those standards were supported by other mass IHVs [independent hardware vendors] and forces against 3dfx were much higher than the strength of the company itself. But this was not an un-expectable major problem: the real economic problem of 3dfx was the purchase of PCB [printed circuit board] maker called STB. While the takeover allowed 3dfx to make high-quality graphics cards, it put the company against all the powers of Taiwan- and China-based manufacturers, who used both 3dfx and Nvidia chipsets. Besides, there were obvious headwinds from ATI and Nvidia along with game developers against Glide and things like miniGL (so-called miniport). The company was bleeding heavily in terms of both revenues and profits.
To make the matters even worse, 3dfx announced back in 1999 its VSA architecture - without T&L [which was a feature for game developers] but with chip-level scalability - that was behind those offered by ATI and Nvidia in terms of features and cost.
In the year 2000, all the headwinds that 3dfx was against just blew the company out of the scene. The result was obvious: the financial power of Nvidia acquired all the assets of 3dfx along with talents and patents.
The end for 3dfx showed a clear sign to the industry: on the PC market nowadays it is impossible to impose proprietary standards, rely on sales of own-brand add-ons and be against of the whole industry at the same time.