This is a smart move by AMD.
After ten years of updating drivers for graphics adapters every month, ATI Technologies, which is now a part of Advanced Micro Devices, pulled the plug. From now on, new drivers will be issued when the company can ensure major improvements in terms of performance or functionality while retaining stability.
ATI Technologies released the very first Catalyst driver in June, 2002, just a couple of months before the launch of the legendary Radeon 9700 "R300" graphics card. After several months of existence, ATI proclaimed plan to release a new version of its driver for graphics cards every month, partly in a bid to convince potential customers that ATI's drivers were improving quickly. For many times ATI and then AMD stated that monthly driver releases were indisputable trumps of the Radeon.
But the market conditions are changing. The personal computer is no longer a primary gaming or game development platform. The battle for the highest-performing graphics card is not as fierce as it once used to be. The number of graphics architectures and platforms that AMD needs to support now has grown significantly from the number of architectures several years ago. As a result, updating drivers for graphics adapters every month may not just make a lot of sense either for AMD or for the end-user.
"With the release of the Catalyst 12.6 Beta driver, AMD would also like to announce that we are moving away from our monthly Catalyst release plan. Our goal is to ensure that every Catalyst release delivers a substantial benefit to our end users; as we have today with the release of the Catalyst 12.6a Beta. We will still continue with the Catalyst naming convention; Catalyst: Year.Month., You just won't see a new driver every single month. We are confident that this will only benefit the end user; you'll only need to upgrade to a new Catalyst driver, when it makes sense," said Andrew Dodd, a spokesman for Catalyst development team at AMD.
AMD believes that the change of the update plan will enable it to just focus on getting the best drivers ready and posted, when it makes sense to release something, not just following a posting schedule for its own sake. Given the new market conditions, it just seems right, even though it is sad to let something a decade old go.