Follow the Yellow Brick Road
3dfx's Mac announcement wasn't a surprise for several reasons. The first is historical: the first three generations of Voodoo cards have all been available for the Macintosh. In the market they've been by and large the leaders in 3D performance and have been well received by the community. Since initial Voodoo cards were made by third party manufacturer's, prices remained high and made for a lower rate of penetration into the Mac market.
After Mac Voodoo2 card manufacturer MicroConversions ceased operations last summer, 3dfx released perennially-beta reference drivers, though only for Glide and Apple's RAVE APIs. Native OpenGL would have to wait until November. In the Fall, Voodoo3 2000 and, finally, 3000 drivers followed, so for the first time Mac users could go to any retail outlet and take full advantage of the relative budget pricing of PC-boxed boards. (The AGP-only 3500 still lacks Mac drivers because of the lack of AGP in all but Apple's 1999 desktops).
ATI's entrance in the Mac market
It happens that there's plenty of room for competition in the Mac video market. 1999 opened with great hopes for ATI's Rage 128. Finally, Apple was shipping systems with 3D capabilities that, if not at the top of the pack on the PC side, could - with faster system buses and AGP giving a helping hand -- surpass the then Mac 3D king, the Voodoo2. But whatever the success of ATI as Apple's OEM, they had problems shipping retail versions of the cards and producing quality drivers in a timely fashion, making the Voodoo3 a very popular add-on this year. With ATI's next-generation offering, the Rage Fury MAXX, reportedly suffering from a technical incompatibility with Apple motherboards, Apple might be open to new options besides ATI.
The way 3dfx is marketing their products and exactly what the Mac-specific features of the VSA-100 will change performance-wise can give us a good idea of what 3dfx expects to see from the Mac Voodoo 4/5. Besides selling the standard key points of the Voodoo 4/5 -- fill-rate, resolution support, the T-buffer-based cinematic effects we discussed just discussed in our previous 3dfx article - during the announcement, 3dfx landed the big fish in our laps. The Voodoo 4/5 will feature native support for the Macintosh byte ordering and pixel format.