It's amazing how a little bit of time, effort, and pampering can change your view of a company.
Yesterday, ATI put on a developer day at some fancy hotel in San Francisco. They served us this incredible buffet lunch, with soups, cuts of meat, and ingredients to make tacos, plus some neat little pecan pie desserts. During the break, platters of chocolate chip, peanut butter, macadamia nut, and oatmeal cookies were out, all very, very good.
Each person was given a binder with info, a fat, clear pen that lit up with the push of a button, and a little black notebook, a la Msft notebooks at the GDC, not to mention their top-of-the-line video card, the Radeon 9700. Definitely very nice.
Technical talks were given too, I think. But seriously, the lectures were interesting and helpful. Topics included Pixel Shader 2.0 coding, new features in DirectX9 (plus optimization), debugging shaders, and a workshop on using their shader dev tool, RenderMonkey. Being walked though it was definitely a great way to have developers start using it, and it really does seem like a great tool -- you can easily create and tweak effects, write shader code in it, and even attach your own engine to it so you can see how it would look in your game. What I have to wonder now is how nVidia's Cg dev tools compare to this.
By reaching out to the developers, ATI presents itself as a more desirable and worthwhile company to develop for (aside from the fact that all the chips out there are basically either by ATI or nVidia). nVidia's been aggressively reaching out to developers for a long time, so the developer really benefits from this dual-education competition.