Yeahs and Nays For 2001

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Computing Event of the Year

CPU Price Wars: AMD brought the price of high-end processors down to unheard of levels and forced Intel to join in, which drove prices down even more. While both companies are now trying to
prop prices back up, it will never be the same again.

Product of the Year

Crucial DDR memory: This product almost single-handedly brought DDR to everyone with its excellent performance and aggressive pricing.

Honorable Mentions:

Late Model AMD Athlon Thunderbirds: They probably had to cannibalize Palomino technology to do it, but the AXIA and later steppings made 1.5GHz easy at an absurdly low price.

AMD 760 Chipset: When no one else seemed capable of making a good, reliable DDR board, motherboards based on this chipset held the fort for a long time until folks like Via got their act together.

Dog of the Year

The Intel PIV/SDRAM 845 combo: Probably the most cynical offering ever made by a computer company, a stopgap computing system even its makers knew was terrible. A textbook example of “when you have lemons, make lemonade.”

Honorable Mention:

nForce chipset: We hereby rename this the nFlop. Not because it’s so bad, but nVidia pumped more hot air into this at Computex than Via pumped into their big balloons. nVidia talked like this was Product of the Century, but all that hot air just inflated a trial balloon. Try more product, less hype, lower price next time.

Most Foolish Feature of the Year

Matrox’s “talking mouth” feature for the G550: If you don’t remember that one, you and somebody else send pictures of each other to each other, and the video camera just transmits the part of your face that’s yapping.

Winner of the Year

Lite-On: This company went from also-ran status to contender with a series of good to near-great products at low prices.

Honorable Mention:

SiS: The company made some noise in the socket A market with a very popular, very cheap SiS 735 chipset. Even better is likely to come next year with the SiS 635 PIV chipset looking like best of the breed.

Loser of the Year

Rambus: Rambus was the legal Energizer bunny this year. They tried to hold the computer industry hostage by claiming patents on every memory innovation in the last ten years. They kept going and going and going, but kept losing and losing and losing. For them, 2001 should be entitled, “I fought the law and the law won.”

Even Stockholm Syndrome victim Intel managed to wiggle loose from what had been Rambus’ iron clutches.

Honorable Mentions:

Memory manufacturers: A relatively small oversupply of memory chips combined with zero cooperation turned the memory market yet again into a financial bloodbath, leaving companies even less equipped to do what has to be
done to keep memory from becoming the main bottleneck of future computers.

Via: After a tremendous 2000, Via stumbled and couldn’t get a good socket A DDR board out until the end of the year. That gave other competitors a chance to get their foot in the door. Some did better (SiS) than others (Ali, nVidia), but they’ll all be around to haunt Via in 2002 along with the usual enemy Intel.

Survivor Award

Intel: Despite having an overpriced, underperforming lineup for 2001, Intel kept AMD gains to a minimum in 2001 while readying a much more competitive lineup for 2002.

Slick Willy Award

Intel: We may have to retire this one, because it’s hard to imagine anyone ever even coming close to matching Intel’s performance in the second half of 2001. In any other year, successfully selling the PIV/SDRAM combo would have won it, but that got set up by something even better.

The best of the best in 2001 was Intel:

  • designing the PIV to do less work per MHz
  • ramping up to 2GHz
  • forcing AMD to go to PR and
  • quietly watching AMD get reamed for dishonesty.

    Now that’s slick!

    Honorable Mentions:

    DDR Advocacy Groups: Despite initial delays and problems, DDR will become the memory standard after Intel changes over next month. While Rambus tried to bluster and bluff and bludgeon its way there, DDR advocacy groups like Inquest quietly but effectively promoted the DDR standard.

    Coordinated manufacturer/website marketing: A significant but disturbing trend in 2001 was the blatant manipulation of computer hardware websites for marketing purposes by providing loaners for such short periods that they could be no more than superficially tested, then using NDAs to deliver them all in one big salvo.

    It’s hard to say who is more to blame, the manufacturers for setting such conditions, or the websites for accepting them.

    Not-So-Slick Willy Award

    Rambus: You get a Slick Willy Award by getting away with it. Rambus talked the talk, but couldn’t take a step.

    Honorable Mentions

    AMD: Showing investment people one roadmap, then changing it days thereafter to delay XP for six months and pretty much getting away with it was pretty slick. On the other hand, PR controversies have hurt (though it’s tough to see how
    AMD could have done much better). More importantly, the general paranoid secretiveness of the organization and its predilection for giving a slick over an honest answer even when unnecessary only serves to make Intel look good.

    nVidia: nVidia for 1) hyping then and even now the nForce board and 2) initially attempting to sell the GeForce3 boards for up to $700.

    ATI:ATI for trying to BS their way out of the Quake driver fiasco and failing.

    Email Ed

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