ATI responds to OEM card controversy

During the past few days, we've been covering the unfolding controversy over ATI's OEM Radeon 8500 cards—and over ATI's public statements about these cards. The messages coming out of ATI have been less than crystal clear, to say the least. ATI's Director of Public Relations, John Challinor, has agreed to answer some specific questions about these issues in an attempt to clear up the confusion. Our questions and his reponses follow.
1) Your statement yesterday seemed to indicate that Radeon 8500 cards in a 250/250 configuration are only available from third parties--that only the chips in these cards come from ATI. In my article, I have pictures of an "OEM" ATI Radeon card we purchased. It runs at a stock 250/250MHz clock rate, but the card is clearly marked--all over it--as an ATI card. Is this card one of the "third party" cards you referred to in your statement? If so, in what sense do you mean "third party"?

ATI sold a limited number of ATI-branded boards with the RADEON 8500-based 250/250 chip to its add-in board (AIB) manufacturer partners to help hasten their entry into the worldwide PC marketplace with our latest technologies. This level of support will soon revert to our planned program of providing only RADEON 8500-based chips, which AIBs will then add to their own boards and market to their various customers around the world, including retailers and system integrators. The RADEON 8500-based product sold to AIBs will not be sold by ATI into retail. It will be sold by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), original design manufacturers (ODMs) and AIBs into retail as part of their overall technology offerings. We will be making a formal announcement in this regard in the next few days. By the way, in second reference to them in my earlier correspondence with you, I have referred to OEMs, ODMs and AIBs as third parties.

2) These cards appear to be widely available at online vendors. How do cards like the one we purchased make it into the channel?

In response to question two, well, it pretty much follows along the lines of question one. Third parties such as OEMs, ODMs and AIBs have the discretion of selling RADEON 8500-based technologies into retail—as well as to all other customers they serve.

3) When introducing its new 7500/8500 product naming scheme, did ATI ever consider assigning a different name to its 250/250MHz cards, like "Radeon 8200" or "Radeon 8500 LE"? Why did ATI decide against providing this kind of product differentiation information to its customers?

ATI looked at a number of subbranding variants and has settled on a name for the RADEON 8500-based chip that it will sell to OEMs, ODMs and AIBs. That announcement will be made shortly by the Company. The name we have settled on will serve to clearly differentiate ATI's RADEON 8500 275/275 offering from its 250/250 offering. We apologize for any confusion that may have occurred amongst our various publics as a result of assisting our AIB partners to quickly penetrate the market with our technology. There will be complete clarity soon. Stay tuned.

We will most definitely stay tuned. There's still time for ATI to step up and do the right thing here, so we'll be watching ATI's forthcoming announcements carefully.
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