EE Times: 3dfx burned by Napalm

— 1:24 AM on November 11, 1999

3dfx is going to miss the Christmas buying season with its new Napalm technology, and their CEO stepped down shortly after the announcement. Anyone who follows the graphics market knows 3dfx has lost some of its cachet in recent months, losing "mindshare" to NVIDIA in a big way. 3dfx has been accussed of lagging behind its competitors in terms of its technology, among other things. The problem with their next-gen Napalm tech, according to this EE Times story, has been its complex design. What's the hold-up?

With 14 million transistors, Napalm proved a challenge for back-end place and route. "It was so complex, it was breaking some emulation tools. It took a long time to verify," he said. The company is confident that the chip will be ready in the February-April fiscal quarter, Zacarias said.

The EE Times story makes it sound as if 3dfx's Napalm tech, likely to be called Voodoo4, is not an all-new 3D rendering core. If so, that fact hadn't penetrated my thick head until now. Is this thing truly an extension of the Voodoo architecture, or what?

3dfx does have an all-new core in the works, slated for release in the second half of 2000:

Napalm, described as the first gigapixel product of its kind, will be very competitive with GeForce, he claimed. And coming right behind it will be a completely new architecture, code-named Rampage.

"We've spent the last 18 months having 30 engineers designing a new core from the ground up," Zacarias said. The firm expects to introduce Rampage in the first half of 2000, with production slated for the second half. An iteration of Rampage, called Sage, is in development for 2001, and a low-end version of Napalm, called Napalm LC, should be out by the end of 2000, he added.

So is that two all-new cores, or one very complex Voodoo core rehash and one all-new architecture? (Many thanks to the 'shack for pointing out this link.)
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