The S3 chips weren't all that bad. Matrox was the undisputed leader, but S3 was a splendid option for anyone still sitting with old isa cards. They lost the fight when the riva and tnt cards arrived, but not before then.
S3 actually made some good chips during the TNT times, the Savage 4 was decent with METAL and S3 Texture Compression. Very few games supported METAL though, they opted for the 3DFX Glide and OpenGL standard.
Overall they were a decent "budget" vender back in the day with really good 2D acceleration. Via only bought them for their 2D acceleration tech so that Via could produce all-in-one boards. Same reason they acquired Cyrix. These days none of that is needed so Via just shedding it and letting HTC use it for smartphone / tablet integration.
And yes I would absolutely love to see a Via Nano x2 + Tegra type integrated product.
[citation][nom]spookyman[/nom]S3 lost the fight when 3Dfx graphics came out.[/citation]
not really, cause at the beginning 3dfx couldn't stand alone. It needed a 2d card to work. Only with the second generation did it get challenged, and the '16bit only' limitation of voodoo made other options better (despite performing worse). In the end, it was the advent of directx and true 2d and 3d capable graphics cards from ati and nvidia that made the difference. Before then s3 was fine. It had enough memory, and was sufficiently vesa compliant (means almost all dos games would work without needing univesa or anything else).
in short 3dfx might've started the 3d wave, but can't be credited for S3's failure to keep up.
S3 graphics have been pretty low end for the last decade. Even though VIA had S3 release dedicated GPUs a little while ago they have been regulated to the low end and set top boxes. Too bad VIA couldn't really capitalize on it. They should have been able to come out with a fusion esk chip well before Intel and AMD if they really wanted.
Now that VIA is selling off S3, they may be a better fit with nVidia now. Nvidia has basically been muscled out of the low end, where there is the most profit, by Intel and AMD. That is why they aligned themselves with ARM for phones/tablets. They still have some of the best high end desktop graphics, but I feel they will continue to be pushed further out of the desktop sector unless the become a true third pillar in the computing industry.