TR paper-launches ATI product

Well, here is an intriguing twist of fate for you. We have repeatedly decried the practice of "paper launches" here at TR in the past, where products are announced and submitted for review well before they're available to consumers. We have singled out ATI in particular more than once on this front, because they have struggled to meet availability dates that they had set themselves. Yesterday was new territory for us, as we managed to conduct a paper launch of an ATI product ourselves, believe it or not.

You see, the Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition showed up on my doorstep last Monday morning, much to my surprise. ATI informed me that the product was set to launch the following Monday—that is, yesterday—with immediate availability at online vendors. ATI requested that we hold off on publishing benchmark numbers until the morning of the product launch, and we generally agree to such things in order to get access to pre-release hardware.

This news threatened to put a crimp in my plans, which involved a short but much-needed vacation from this past Friday to Monday. I proceeded to dive headfirst into a frantic benchmarking, photo-taking, fact-gathering, and graph-making extravaganza, and I finished the review last Thursday evening before leaving for my trip. I instructed the TR staff to post the review at the appointed time, and I was gone.

Apparently some time around mid-day Friday, ATI came to realize that a customs snag involving its shipment of Radeon X1800 CrossFire dongle cables would prevent the new CrossFire cards from making it to online vendors in time for the launch. Not wanting to end up facing availability problems yet again, the folks at ATI decided to push back the product launch date indefinitely until the issue could be resolved. They sent an e-mail message to various press outlets calling off the dogs, but I didn't get the message in time, and neither did the TR staff.

Soooo... yesterday morning, TR unilaterally paper-launched the Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition, complete with an exhaustive review that included the words, "ATI says Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition cards will be available today at online retailers." By the time we became aware of the mix-up, the cat was already well out of the bag and chasing mice around the field. ATI took extraordinary last-minute precautions to ensure that the Radeon X1800 CrossFire Edition would not be a paper launch. Only with our able cooperation did news of the product hit the streets before the product itself was widely available.

Now that I've conducted a paper launch myself, I can't say I see the attraction. Fortunately, it seems ATI doesn't see it, either. We will let you know when the Radeon X1800 CrossFire's official launch date actually arrives, no doubt with product availability hot on its heels.

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