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Nvidia, ATI strengthen mobile phone graphics ties

Symbian, Qualcomm partnerships

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Nvidia and its arch-rival ATI both made pitches to win big gains in the emerging market for 3D graphics on mobile phones yesterday.

Nvidia said it would allow its GoForce phone-oriented graphics chips to support the Symbian OS. At the same time, ATI said it had licensed its Imageon core to US phone chip maker Qualcomm.

Nvidia's Symbian commitment came through its membership of the smartphone operating system provider's Platinum Program - its collection of technology providers who all contribute components that can be utilised in the development of advanced Symbian-based handsets. Symbian will promote the Nvidia graphics solution to handset developers and manufacturers.

Nvidia isn't the only company of its kind on Symbian's Platinum scheme. So is the much-hyped Finnish company Bitboys, which once promised to revolutionise desktop PC graphics but now focuses on the mobile phone and handheld markets using its Acceleon range of graphics chips. Imagination, meanwhile, offers a range of mobile phone-oriented products, including its PowerVR MBX mobile graphics chip.

Nvidia also began shipping its mobile phone graphics software development kit (SDK) - the tools needed to create phone-oriented content capable of leveraging GoForce's features. The GoForce product line resulted from Nvidia's acquisition of chip designer MediaQ last August.

Qualcomm's partnership with ATI, meanwhile, will see the latter's Imageon core being integrated into the phone specialists baseband chips. Qualcomm has already built a level of graphics processing into its current line-up, but said it had turned to ATI to boost performance from 100,000 triangles per second graphics processing power to the order of 3-4 million triangles per second.

"A 3-4 million triangle capability provides better graphics performance than the PlayStation 1 platform," said Qualcomm president Sanjay Jha.

Qualcomm is targeting the ATI technology at its MSM7xxx chipsets. It also said it would build support for Imageon into its MSM6xxx chips, allowing phone makers to easily connect them to discrete Imageon components. The MSM6xxx series is available now - the MSM7xxx line is scheduled to ship by the end of the year. ®

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