ATI may announce Axiom next week

Alternative PCI Express graphics module to Nvidia's MXM

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Having roundly trashed Nvidia's PCI Express graphics module format, MXM, ATI will tout one of its own, dubbed Axiom, The Register has heard on the grapevine. The specification could be revealed as early as next week.

That some such system was on the cards was signalled to us earlier this month by an ATI spokesman who told us: "We have already been empowering upgradeability from an ODM and OEM or an end-user perspective through FLEXFIT, pin and driver compatibility, and modules design, and with PCI Express we will develop this further." (our emphasis).

And then, Billy Wang, VP of ATI Asia-Pacific, let slip a few weeks back to Taiwanese news site DigiTimes that the company was on "a PCI Express support module architecture called Axiom".

Quite how Axiom differs from MXM isn't known - indeed, very little is known about the ATI spec. MXM was developed to let notebook manufacturers to slot graphics chips into their machines rather than physically add them to the motherboard. That means they can not only update their notebooks' graphics sub-systems more easily, but tout upgradeability to end users. Graphics card manufacturers will then benefit from the creation of an after-market for notebook users of the kind that already exists to sell to desktop owners.

MXM has three sub-specifications, for thin'n'light, mainstream and desktop replacement notebooks, respectively. It is not known whether Axiom supports the same segmentation.

ATI's pitch is that with a claimed "73 per cent of the discrete notebook graphics market", it's in a much better position to win sufficient support from OEMs, ODMs and graphics card companies to establish a de facto standard of the type Nvidia is proposing.

Of course, that's exactly how Nvidia hopes to dent that 73 per cent share - by offering a format that said OEMs, ODMs and graphics card companies can rally to.

Whatever ATI comes up with, expect mud to be flung at it by Nvidia - much as ATI chucked the stuff at Nvidia. But unless both specifications are fully interoperable, then the notebook graphics market is not going to change. Vendors will presumably choose MXM or Axiom depending on whether they already favour Nvidia's or ATI's graphics chips, and while end users may be able to upgrade their notebooks, they'll still be stuck with a single vendor. ®

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