IHV -> OEM -> End User
Each side of the arrow has a supplier and and a consumer. The customer is the consumer. Even the retail channel is skewed slightly since there is an AIB in between there too. It's *REALLY* hard to by a direct Graphics board for any vendor.
Reflecting the to a more concrete example. For the AIB, just swap HP for XFX.
ATI -> HP -> You.
It's still the same relationships. Now abstracting that out from the ATI perspective, we have...
Seller -> Customer -> End User.
There isn't much of a direct relationship between the Seller and the End User. Obviously there is an ecosystem that exists where the Seller considers the sell through or pull to the End User, but that is more or less noise when it comes down to the OEM agreements and the dynamics in the market place (There was an inquirer article today that indicated in some channels there is at least a 20:1 ratio of AMD:NVIDIA products sold, that is an absolute inversion just driven by a calender lag between competing products.
So now through in some more juice into the competitive picture (as per Michael Porter's Competitive Strategy, most companies will compete within one, possibly two of the follow domains.
Price, Quality. Features
The OEM -> End User part of the picture pretty much exists on the Price/Quality perspective. Which means that the margins are low, the features are secondary and the OEMs position themselves by primarily tweaking quality with the associated costs increase.
Now for the IHV -> OEM channel it's typically Quality/Features. There is a spec to be fulfilled and a fairly small playing field to meet the products requirements.
This impedance mismatch forces the IHV to create features that directly feed into the price sensitivity of the OEM. Which fundamentally means that if you are different or small market, you are expensive to support so you get pushed out of the picture. In our world, this comes down to the fact that Linux doesn't fit into the OEM's requirements so it gets pushed out of the equation for the IHV doesn't create the OEM centric features for Linux.
Now the reason for the existence of Solaris and Linux drivers within the GPU space is fairly simple. It is either the markets where the GPU vendors have direct interaction with their End User (ie: Enterprise or Embedded), or the markets where the OEM needs to eject the double digit percentage of Windows from their devices.
In the case of the low end of the market, to reduce the cost of having Linux, you get dumbed down, singular purpose devices.
You are there, it's just the other 99 of the people beside you looking for a Windows PC make you a very tiny voice. Just big enough to be heard (ie: drivers exist), but too small to have any direct impact....
So where in this list is the customer?
You get it from finding a vendor that has you within the customer profile. ZaReason, System76 come to mind. As OEM's they are tiny in the big picture, so they end up being more expensive since they fulfill the niche through their own engineering and work.What can I do as customer to get what I want? Buying AMD?
Fun Rant, I step down now...