Computing Event of the Year
AMD Stumbles And Bumbles: For almost the entire year, AMD essentially sang, “Yes, we have no bananas.” PR replaced product; the only thing that showed up the first three quarters was excess inventory. Sales plummeted, losses skyrocketed.
The Slump Continues: Outside of North America, the PC industry actually isn’t doing badly at all. The North American market is in a state of depression, and more perceptive observers began to conclude that this was satiation, not slump.
Intel Has A Good Year: Intel shook off the doldrums and came out with a series of CPU and motherboard products that were as good or better than the competition.
Overclocking Product of the Year
Intel Northwood 1.6A Processor: With effortless 50% overclocks and an AMD-like price, this CPU began bringing overclockers back to Intel, restoring a two-horse race in the overclocker arena.
nVidia Ti4200: This was the workhorse video card for most of the year, delivering the best bang-for-the-buck in the video arena.
WD1200JB Hard Drive: With its 8Mb cache and reasonable price; it was the premier IDE hard drive for most of the year.
Corsair High Speed DDR Memory: Their PC2700 modules weren’t very good, but after that, Corsair reestablished itself as the memory to get for high-end overclocking.
Dog of the Year
Matrox Parhelia: Overpriced, underperforming, buggy. Didn’t know about the buggy part? That’s how fast it fell off the radar screen.
Do you have one? Doesn’t anybody?
Pop-Up Caps: Inferior capacitors represented a shadow among motherboard users, yet another cause of failure to worry about.
Most Foolish Feature of the Year
The Nonexistent Six: It is a very good thing to have a /6 divisor on the motherboard. It is a very foolish thing to say you do on a KT400 when it doesn’t and can’t work, like Abit and Soyo claimed.
Winner of the Year
ATI: Despite a less-than-ethical preview of its Radeon 9700 product; the product itself was pretty good, and ATI put itself in position to stand toe-to-toe with nVidia over the entire video card range in 2003.
Memory Manufacturers: They beat Intel back into the fold just as RDRAM was showing some competitive signs of life. They’ve ensured in 2002 that they’ll determine the future of memory for the next few years.
Loser of the Year
AMD: No Hammer, a Thoroughbred with a broken leg most of the year, and a Palominos inventory that is still in the wrong hands. Next year, a Hammer that is starting to look like too little, too late. They’ll probably muddle through 2003, but in greatly weakened shape.
Via: Intel beat them up with lawyers on the PIV side; AMD beat them up with sheer lack of new product; they beat themselves up with the KT400. With nVidia around, Via can no longer afford to take two tries to get it right.
Matrox: Parhelia couldn’t compete among gamers and cost astronomically more than Matrox’s perfectly-good-for-corporate-2D G series. The company has been cutting back on staff, and many question its continued existence.
nVidia: nVidia lost some Christmas sales when they couldn’t get NV30 out, but more than that, they lost the image of invulnerability. This will make life a lot rougher for them in 2003.
Slick Willy Award
ATI: ATI conducting previews in which they blatantly manipulated the conditions and presentation of benchmarks, to the general incomprehension of the manipulated, was a sad demonstration of the information-processing capability of the target (as in the sight of a sniper) audience. Even worse, it was unnecessary: the card was able to stand pretty well on its own merits.
Trends To Watch In 2003:
Enough: We’re supposed to be the computing fanatics. Well, this year, even the fanatics started saying, a lot, “Speed isn’t everything.” Words like “quiet” and “small” started becoming priorities to many.
If even the loons have had enough, what about everyone else? The manufacturers want to stick with faster and bigger. The audience seems to be shifting towards smaller and cheaper. Who will win?
Resistance Is Futile; Websites Get Assimilated: More than ever, manufacturers began taking computer hardware websites seriously. This has not been a good thing, since “seriously” has meant largely using them as marketing tools for products and controlling the terms of review. The hype went up, and credibility went down.
Free Speech Gets Kicked Around: For a number of reasons, ranging from economic to egotistical, legitimate criticism or even uncomfortable questioning too often got people banned.
Warping Into Cyberspace: As government sent the first warning shots across the cyberbow, many of the crew certainly acted like they belonged in a different universe.
When the concept that “stealing is illegal” is considered in some corners to be a radical, ridiculous notion, if not quite a separate universe, it’s certainly divorced from the reality in this one.
The two universes are likely to start colliding next year.