CrossFire launch leaves only vapors

— 11:18 AM on September 30, 2005

Many folks who have read my review of ATI CrossFire in the past week have been wondering where they could buy the motherboards and CrossFire Edition graphics cards in order to build a CrossFire system for themselves. They've wondered that, in part, because of this passage from the conclusion of my CrossFire review, shortly after I recommend not buying a CrossFire setup right away:

If you just can't bring yourself to heed my advice and wait, I believe Radeon X850 XT CrossFire Edition cards should be available starting today at online vendors, as should Radeon Xpress 200 CrossFire Edition motherboards. I suppose the master cards will come with the appropriate video drivers for CrossFire configs, and ATI says to expect the first public release of CrossFire-ready Catalyst drivers during the first week of October. Not long after that, on October 10, Radeon X800 master cards are slated to hit store shelves.
That first sentence was my cautious way of relaying the initial availability information conveyed to me (and other journalists) by ATI about CrossFire products. The message from ATI was consistent and, I thought, reasonably clear: the reason for the delay of CrossFire from its initial announcement in May to its final unveiling in late September was that ATI wanted to have CrossFire products available in the market when the product launched. ATI representatives repeated this message to us consistently at the ECS Editor's Day event and in phone conversations during the lead-up to the CrossFire launch. ATI's motherboard partners reinforced this sentiment, as I wrote about ECS:
ECS was showing off motherboards for both AMD and Intel processors running with dual Radeon graphics cards, and the company says both boards are ready to roll as soon as ATI delivers CrossFire "Master" cards. That should happen some time in September, according to the rumors I've been hearing.
Somehow, I came to believe that ATI was serious about this message, especially in light of NVIDIA's multiple recent launches where the products were available on the same day.

Turns out ATI didn't deliver. CrossFire master cards and motherboards are not available at online retailers even today. Look at it how you like: either ATI's representatives gave us the wrong impression, or the company and its partners failed to deliver in a way that surprised even ATI. I don't know which is the case.

What I do know is that the failure to deliver CrossFire products at launch is a pretty major public stumble. We have been following this story, and I had intended to post a follow-up about CrossFire availability problems shortly. However, I am currently knee-deep in other product reviews, as are the other TR staffers, so I didn't have time to look into the matter and write up a post immediately.

So naturally, I was delighted when my friend Charlie from the Inquirer came asking about how I got the impression that CrossFire should be available at launch. Yesterday afternoon via the phone, I told him the story that I just told you about how ATI gave me that impression. I told him that this smacked of ATI's past problems with dissonance between PR and reality, and I encouraged him to pursue and publish an article on the subject. It was my pleasure to assist him in making that happen, because I thought the issue needed some attention that I didn't have time to give it.

Today comes the Inquirer article on the subject, but with a twist I didn't expect. Published with the subhead "Toys make sites lose their heads," the article mentions CrossFire availability problems but then brushes them aside and focuses on online review sites:

But forget ATI for a moment, because the online review community blew this one big time. I can forgive them for thinking it would be out on day one, ATI told them they would. What annoys me is these patsies didn't follow up after that. This week is a miserable one for the hardware community, corporate PR, and users in general.
Yow. I suppose I have learned my lesson about assisting the Inquirer on a story. The personal affront in this case is pretty egregious, but the larger problem is the self-righteous smugness underlying the Inq's playful, tabloid-like veneer. I simply don't think it's warranted, given everything.

In any event, for the record, this "patsy" has no problem calling out ATI on CrossFire availability, nor on a wide range of subjects when the situation warrants. CrossFire availability problems are real, and they are unfortunate. They would be more unfortunate if this generation of CrossFire were something I recommended for purchase.

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