Actually ATI released 3D programming information for the r100 and r200 families of graphics chips (powering the graphics cards up to the Radeon 9250) a long time ago, and we have had 3D drivers for these cards for a very long time. Then they changed their policy, and did not release information for their later cards until they were bought by AMD. The r100 and r200 information reportedly helped in reverse engineering the r300/r400 and so we have enjoyed free drivers for these cards with 3D acceleration after a while.
Why did ATI change their policy in the unwelcome direction? Maybe the market force of the free software users is not big enough (or at least ATI management thought so); many Linux users obviously care little for free software and bought Nvidia based on the availability of their proprietary driver.
Why did AMD change the policy in the welcome direction? Apparently the market force of the free software users is big enough for AMD to care, even if ATI didn't.
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