What the heck is happening at ATI?

As a long-time ATI customer, it was ominous to see ati.com get redirected to a sub-domain of amd.com — a huge marketing/branding mistake, on the order of moving the Jaguar site to a tab under ford.com. (Ford owns Jaguar, for those who may not track that kind of thing.)

Since being absorbed by AMD, ATI has been stumbling from a quality perspective. It’s not clear if there’s a cause/effect relationship there, or if ATI would be having so many problems even if they were still independent.

Example: After upgrading to ATI’s Catalyst 7.2 drivers, my Media Center could no longer play high-definition video. I’d updated recently enough that I was able to connect the dots pretty quickly — the solution was either downgrade to Catalyst 7.1, or to trash Catalyst altogether (using Vista’s built-in driver instead).

Example: ATI’s latest Catalyst 7.3 drivers are causing boot-crash-boot-crash infinite loops for enough people (myself included) that it’s easy to find lots of ticked-off users. I spent many painful hours trying to figure out how I was going to recover from this one, so hopefully this tip saves other folks some time and pain:

  • Launch msconfig
  • Go to the Services tab
  • Disable Ati External Event Utility

(What’s really silly is that Ati External Event Utility is apparently pointless except under some rare and ill-defined scenarios, and that almost no customers would miss it.)

Example: ATI announced at CES that they would be shipping their ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner on January 30. And they apparently did, for a few days, but they had to halt shipments shortly thereafter because of bugs. Nearly three months later, the product is still awaiting approval from CableLabs.

So, what the heck is going on? Are the quality control problems really issues that normal, reasonably-thorough testing couldn’t have caught, unrelated to the AMD acquisition? Has the currently product line grown beyond what the QA team can handle? Is there an internal fight-to-the-death between now-redundant departments, regardless of the reputation cost to one or both brands?

It’d be fascinating to know, and I wonder whether I’ve bought my last ATI product. I do know that if ATI continues to fail me, AMD loses me as a customer, too.