Reply 120 of 129, by 640K!enough
AdLib and Gravis created better products. (Let's just assume that's a fact rather than subjective.) They cost less than contemporary Sound Blasters at the time. They are no longer with us. Think about it -- why do companies usually fail? They can't reach profitability (selling for too little, or their cost is too high?); they don't have sufficient market penetration (they aren't marketing enough, or at least effectively enough?); their product is inferior (but we ruled that out)...
IMO, AdLib failed because they weren't aggressive enough at marketing (not just ads -- which they did -- but developer, retail, and customer outreach for e.g.) They also kinda stumbled into the market when there wasn't any competition to speak of, secured their place, and sat there for too long before advancing. So they got bowled over by someone moving faster. "But but the Yamaha thing!" Yeah, but why did Yamaha agree to those terms? Because Creative had more sales potential, so they went where the money was going to be.
For someone who claims not to be defending Creative, you're certainly acting like a devotee to the Church of Sim. Are you really trying to dismiss the historical record and pretend that Creative survived because they were the only company that understood how to price their products? If that's the case, I don't think there are any facts that anyone could present that would convince you otherwise.
If you think about it objectively, Creative was never a proactive company in the sound world; they were purely reactionary, preferring to sell the same over-priced products as long as they could, until it became clear that they had to do something if they didn't want to become irrelevant. Then, they would try to get rid of more competitors, throw together a half-baked response, and wind up the marketing machine and arm-twisting to get it supported.
From the information that was available, Ad Lib was working on the Gold as a response to the Sound Blaster. If not for the purported Creative shenanigans, it was scheduled to ship around the time of the dual-OPL2 Sound Blaster Pro, if not earlier. Developers at Ad Lib were the ones who approached Yamaha and helped define what would become the OPL3, so it would make sense that theirs was just about the very first card to include it. Supporting that is the fact that Dune shipped in mid-1992, with a 4-operator, stereo soundtrack that was exclusively supported on the Ad Lib Gold, effects module and all. This also shows that they were working with developers to gain support.
As I think history will show, Yamaha trusting Creative in their arm-twisting efforts was a big mistake. It may have helped in the short term, with Creative buying many chips, but where did it get them? Creative subsequently got E-mu to develop CQM, and with few other major sound card-makers left, Yahama's influence on PC audio waned. At this point, we can only speculate about how PC audio might have evolved had Yamaha not given in to Creative's demands. What could Creative really have done, had Yamaha told them to get lost? Having a card without Yamaha FM at that time would likely have had the same market impact as the Game Blaster (dud), unless you could deliver MT-32- or Sound Canvas-like quality at nearly FM prices.