Could Nouveau be the future for nVidia hardware?

Recently it was announced that Microsoft has an agreement with nVidia that gives Microsoft the chance to match any offers of over 30% of nVidia's outstanding shares. This deal effectively allows Microsoft to keep nVidia from being taken over by anybody else other than Microsoft itself.

Recently it was announced that Microsoft has an agreement with nVidia that gives Microsoft the chance to match any offers of over 30% of nVidia's outstanding shares. This deal effectively allows Microsoft to keep nVidia from being taken over by anybody else other than Microsoft itself.

I am usually not a big fan of Microsoft taking over companies, because products are usually twisted to fit Microsoft's plan. For instance I am highly skeptical of Microsoft's plans with Skype. Even though it hasn't happened yet, I am expecting an announcement by Microsoft to drop future development for at least the Linux Skype software. They may keep the Mac version, as Microsoft actively develops other software for the Mac platform anyway. But how many products does Microsoft develop for GNU/Linux? I can probably fit the number on one hand.

I've always been a big fan of nVidia, so when I heard this news I was disappointed that nVidia would agree to this. The bidding (if a takeover was on the plate) should be open to the highest bidder, and no bidder should have an advantage over all of the others like this. nVidia has released quality hardware for years, and probably the biggest win for me is their commitment to develop drivers for Unix and GNU/Linux for their graphics chipsets. This has made the nVidia graphics cards, manufactured by a variety of vendors, very reliable for GNU/Linux specifically. In fact they are so well done that I solely use nVidia graphics cards in all of my machines, because I can count on broad support regardless of the operating system, even though I only use GNU/Linux. Support for other chipsets like ATI just isn't up to par with nVidia based on my experience over the years.

If Microsoft does in fact have plans to take over nVidia, I just couldn't see Microsoft continuing development of the Unix drivers. If a takeover were to happen, thankfully there is a way out of this. And that is the nouveau drivers that are currently being developed for the Linux kernel, that are truly open source. nVidia still keeps the proprietary Unix driver closed source for some reason. The nouveau project is still young, but advancements have been made which provide basic functionality. 2D support is very good, but 3D support is a work in progress right now. I am guessing it will take years to get nouveau at a point where it can run most 3D applications with ease. Until then, I am hoping that nVidia will not do what 3dfx did and leave its customers in the dark, and allow Microsoft to take over. I was a huge fan of 3dfx back when they were releasing their Voodoo series (even though I was primarily using Windows at the time for my machines), and when they went under it was a terrible loss. 3dfx Glide had superior performance for its time. Thankfully though, open source developers picked up the slack and developed a Glide driver for GNU/Linux. There are also now Glide wrappers for OpenGL (such as Sven's Glide wrapper which perform very well. In fact one good use of this wrapper for open source is to use it in Wine (or Windows) on GNU/Linux, which offers excellent performance and support for older games that were written for Glide, like Blizzard's Diablo II.

Moving forward I'm confident that open source support and the nouveau project will be very well done for nVidia products, regardless of what Microsoft does. But, I think that if Microsoft does take over nVidia anytime soon, it will create a temporary void in nVidia support for non-Microsoft platforms.