The quality argument is used by both sides. A spokesman for NVIDIA recently argued that there was no point in releasing the specifications for NVIDIA’s cards, because no one outside their organization had the skill required to write a competent driver. This statement may indeed be true. They may have completely cornered the market in people who are able to write good display drivers. It seems unlikely, however.
A few years ago, I owned a desktop with an ATI R200 series GPU and a SoundBlaster Live! audio device. This machine ran Windows 2000, and crashed periodically; usually just under once a week. When Windows crashes, it displays a tasteful shade of blue with debugging information written all over it. This invariably told me that one of two things had caused the crash:
- The Creative Labs drivers
- The ATI drivers
I later migrated to FreeBSD on this machine. The sound card used drivers written by the FreeBSD team, and the graphics card used drivers written by the DRI Group. The difference? Suddenly my machine was stable.
My experience with manufacturer’s drivers hasn’t been good, whereas my experience with open source drivers (where they exist) has been excellent. Perhaps I’m unusual in this respect.