Intel goes open-source for graphics

Written by Brett Thomas

August 10, 2006 | 18:34

Tags: #drivers #igp

Companies: #intel #open-source

Intel waded a step further into uncharted terretory this week, declaring that its IGP drivers will be open-source from now on. This is big news for penguin-heads in particular, who are often forced to use proprietary, closed-source drivers for graphics on a machine that they want only open-source products on.

This announcement is well timed to coincide with the LinuxWorld Expo, which starts on the 15th of August. The reception for the change has already been quite a bit better than expected, with the Free Software Foundation hailing it as "a very important step in the evolution of the industry," according to Eben Moglen, the foundation's lead attorney.

The move doesn't just impress the FSF, though. Server companies like HP, which run 'Nix based operating systems, have sat up to take notice. Bdale Garbee, Chief Tech of HP's Linux and open-source said "All things being equal, we will choose silicon for which we can get open-source drivers every time."

Intel hopes that the move will broaden support for the upcoming 965 chipset, known as "Broadwater." This time, it's released the drivers before the chipset is even commercially available, having learned a valuable lesson in release dates. When the company released the Centrino network drivers as open-source, the chip had already been on the market for over a year...the result was a rather insulted open-source group, feeling a bit left behind. Since then, Intel has promised that the next big release would be simultaneous across platforms and open-source.

The company will keep four programmers and five testers on the code; but as with every open-source product, it will be looking for users to come help with the project. Don't look for other companies to follow suit anytime soon, though. Both NVIDIA and ATI/AMD have commented that they intend to keep their drivers closed-source. Only time (and Intel's success with the measure) will tell whether they decide to budge on that.

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