How Matrox has thrived after four decades under NVidia and AMD’s shadow

Matrox could very well be the Blackberry of video cards.

Rather than squabble over the consumer market dominated by NVidia and AMD, the Canadian graphics card vendor has made a name for itself in provisioning video applications to workstations.

According to the company, it doesn’t concern itself much with the relatively smaller profile it has maintained since it was founded in 1976.

“In terms of the home gamer that’s looking for a combination of good performance combined with an inexpensive video card, it’s not something that we’re typically successful at,” conceded Samuel Recine, director of sales in North America and Asia Pacific at Matrox Graphics Inc.

He explained that while the Dorval, Que.-based company is not absent from the gaming market, and is invested in military simulations and even pushed for three-monitor support in consumer games, the business is not mission critical.

“In the gaming market, you can buy very inexpensive cards with very good performance.” he told CDN. Matrox products, he said, tend to be pricier.  “Our competitors build more general purpose video cards and service the gaming market very well, but we’re more known for the serious environments.”

The environments on which the company is focused – and where Recine said NVidia and AMD are not – include control rooms, security monitoring sectors, 911 dispatch, electric power grid monitoring, traffic and flight control, process controls and automation in facilities that process chemicals, pulp and paper, food and beverage – really any place that has “a reliability component.”

This also includes the medical sector, where lifecycles need to be much longer than in gaming rigs – at least five years between refreshes – due to expensive and lengthy certification processes.

“The value of our product is that they can skip a refresh,” Recine said.

Despite these comments, the company incorporated AMD DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.4 compatible GPUs in its latest line of enterprise-oriented graphics solutions.  Its most recent product, the C-Series multi-display graphics cards released in September try to blend high performance (in this case the Matrox C680 supports up to six 4K/UHD displays) with the reliability of a fanless solution.

“Because there is no mechanical parts on the board, which is the first thing to fail on a product, it’s possible to go into long-lasting environments,” Recine said.  Already it’s being deployed by customers in video management systems, small-scale display walls, digital signage and other environments.

In just over a month, the company is set to feature its products at the Integrated Systems Europe 2015 conference in Amsterdam, which showcases professional AV equipment and electronic systems integration.  We will be curious to see where this Canadian company goes as it heads into its fortieth anniversary.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Yin
Dave Yin
Digital Staff Writer at Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel.

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