A recent report gave Diamond Multimedia 43 per cent of the global graphics card market. PCDN talked to Kenneth Wirt, VP of marketing, and Martin Mulligan, European director of sales and marketing, about the company, 3D and videoconferencing.
PCDN: How are you performing in the UK?
MM: Within the UK, our main strength is predominantly from distribution. If you look through most magazines, as far as review-type systems go, Diamond has been predominant in those. As regards OEMs, we are in dialogue with all large OEMs.
What edge do you have over the competition in terms of videoconferencing with your modem/camera bundles?
KW: I think we offer a product that delivers quality in terms of frame rate. And then you've got a price point of under $500, and thirdly you've got a standards base; previously most videoconferencing systems were proprietary. This is one of the first systems that supports H.324 and H.323 standards so that our system can talk to any other standards-based systems, whether through a point-to-point connection or TCP/IP.
MM: From a European perspective, one of Diamond's ideas is to be a global player in order to maximise sales. So within Europe, particularly on the communications side, approvals are pretty critical. We've been making sure that all products are BABT-approved across Europe. We have our own engineering group based in Starnburg in Germany and, basically, we take a worldwide product and European-ise that product for European consumption. If you look around Europe, particularly on the communications side, you'll see different players are strong in different markets, there isn't really one winner.
What are your feelings on BT including Intel and PictureTel in its portfolio?
MM: We think in Europe, videoconferencing will strike in the commercial arena, and also the educational value will get out to the home user and we'll see that product move in there. Obviously, with BT's strength in that they monopolise all the lines in the UK, we need to work closely with them. And with BT endorsing ISDN by offering preferential rates and setup rates we'll see ISDN really taking off. We've seen that happening in Germany. The UK and France are running similar programmes so we'll start to see ISDN really proliferate across Europe.
How close are we to a generic 3D standard?
KW: I think what Microsoft has done with the Direct3D standard is quite flexible because there's two parts of the standard. There's the rendering part that they call Direct3D retained mode, and there's the hardware application layer called the Direct3D immediate mode. So anyone with their own API can write direct to the Direct3D immediate mode layer - the hardware abstraction layer - and it will run and be accelerated by whatever the graphics subsystem is, to the extent that it's capable of accelerating, without having to be custom tweaked for each board. I think you'll see a lot of people who have their own API already will continue to use their API. They'll just write to this hardware abstraction layer.
Is it in your interest for people to use Direct3D over other APIs?
It is very much in our interest that there is a lot of software available and, without a standard, there would not be a lot of software available for anybody's products, and customers would be confused about what software works on what hardware. That situation would retard the growth of the whole industry. It would be very beneficial for there to be a standard out there. What we've shown at Diamond is that we can compete in a 2D environment where there are standards and win.
What's your take on Intel's Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) technology?
KW: We're very enthusiastic about the technology and think it will offer a lot of benefits. Our commitment is to be out there with one of the first AGP boards on the market. We're really restricted by the availability of machines that can handle AGP. The timing of it's not really in our hands at this point. We're working with Intel and the companies that make the graphics chips. I can't give you an exact date when we'll start producing boards, but it will be in the first half of 1997.