It’s certainly one of the hot topics of discussion in OSS circles… should video drivers be open source or proprietary? Ideally two of top three major video chipset manufacturers (namely ATI and Nvidia) could be convinced that they should fully open source their video drivers for the benefit of all. ATI info is here and here.  Nvidia info is here.  Intel already releases open source drivers for at least some of their chipsets, if not all. The general reply to those requests has always been that they won’t because it would expose their secret sauce to their competitors and they would lose their performance edge. I don’t know enough about the techie details to comment on the validity of those claims, but one thing is certain – end users don’t really care. Typical end users just want their video cards to work. That’s why you’ll find SLED 10 offering support for both proprietary and open source drivers out of the box.

Will the proprietary and open source drivers offer the same features and performance? In a word – No. An interesting review (a bit dated now, but still interesting) from Phoronix directly compared the open source driver to the proprietary driver for an ATI video card. Check out the results here to see what they found out.

Clearly, pressure is mounting as Dell and Google have been ramping up the requests/pressure on ATI to get more open drivers for these chipsets. Hey, the more the merrier! This will be an interesting space to watch as things develop…