Breaking up is hard to do?
First it was the Beatles breaking up, and then it was Sonny and Cher. Just as the music world has seen its fair share of breakups over the years, so has the PC hardware industry. One of the more surprising headlines has been the slow erosion of the relationship between Hercules and NVIDIA. As of earlier this year their “relationship” has essentially ended. While we don’t know the whole story behind this development, the origins surely lie in Guillemot’s (the parent company of Hercules) decision to add the PowerVR/ST Micro Kyro 2 graphics core to its product lineup.
As one of NVIDIA’s tier one customers, it goes without saying that Hercules had developed a strong relationship with the company. It was definitely a bold move on Hercules’ part to jeopardize their good standing with NVIDIA on a new chip that showed promise, but hadn’t truly been tested in the PC market. Of course, if you’ve been keeping up with the PC hardware industry, you already know how this story developed. Thanks to its efficient tile-based rendering architecture the Kyro 2 chip was a surprising performer and didn’t require the high-speed DDR memory and advanced manufacturing processes used by NVIDIA’s chips; resulting in a graphics card that delivered very good performance at a low cost.
NVIDIA acknowledged this threat by adjusting their GeForce2 MX lineup (hence the birth of the MX 200 and MX 400) and slashing prices. For the most part, the strategy worked, while the Kyro 2 gained a new group of ATI, 3dfx, and NVIDIA defectors, the buzz around the Kyro 2 fizzled and the norm was restored in the graphics world once again. Then late last year, ATI surprised everyone when they announced that they would begin outsourcing their RADEON family of graphics chips to other manufacturers. At first, motherboard manufacturers were the only companies to hop onboard; Gigabyte was one of ATI’s first customers. While rumors of other long time NVIDIA partners cropped up (ASUS being one of the more notable conspirators) none of these were ultimately true. At least that was the case until Hercules and ATI announced a new strategic partnership at the beginning of this year, Hercules became the most established manufacturer to produce ATI-based products.
As a result of the deal, Hercules got the exclusive rights to produce products based on ATI chips. While 3D Prophet boards based on NVIDIA’s GeForce3 Ti 500 and Ti 200 are still out there, Hercules is moving with ATI from now on. The 3D Prophet FDX 8500 LE is the first retail product based on this new partnership.