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Texas Instruments licenses PowerVR for PDA, cellphone CPUs

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Texas Instruments has licensed Imagination Technologies' PowerVR MBX graphics core and plans to integrate the technology into its ARM-based OMAP processor family.

TI aims OMAP at mobile devices - a key customer is Palm's Solutions Group, which uses the OMAP 1510 in its Tungsten-T PDA.

OMAP's DSP cores currently provide basic video hardware acceleration, but the incorporation of PowerVR will allow more sophisticated 2D and 3D acceleration, and so better position OMAP as a platform for advanced mobile content delivery.

It will also help the company compete with Intel's rival chip family, XScale, which appears to be hoovering up the PDA market. Most PocketPCs use XScale, and Palm's next ARM-based PDA, the wireless Tungsten-C, is expected to use the Intel chip too.

PowerVR itself has an interesting heritage. Originally developed as a 3dfx rival, it eventually found some success as the basis for the Sega Dreamcast console. Unlike other graphics engines, PowerVR is based on an MPEG-2 style tile-based rendering scheme, dramatically reducing the amount of bandwidth required to render complex 3D scenes by working only one small part of the overall image at a time.

US start-up GigaPixel developed a similar scheme during the late 1990s before being acquired by 3dfx in 2000. With 3dfx's demise, the technology moved into Nvidia's hands, but there's little sign the company ever made use of it. Imagination, meanwhile, went on to license PowerVR to STMicro for its Kyro family of graphics cards.

The tile-rendering approach makes PowerVR particularly suitable for low-bandwidth devices like handhelds. The latest incarnation of the technology, the MBX family, incorporates low-power consumption and ARM-oriented performance tuning.

Terms of the deal were not made public. ®

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