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ATI buys Bitboys

Golden child of desktop GPUs to become ATI handset R&D team

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ATI has acquired Bitboys. The Finnish graphics chip developer now focuses on handset GPU designs but is perhaps best known for pledges made in the late 1990s to ship desktop graphics cards that it claimed would massively out-perform rivals from the likes of ATI and Nvidia.

Bitboys is now going to form the basis for a European ATI design centre. ATI is paying €35.2m ($44.5m/£24.3m) for the company, subject to certain unspecified performance-related conditions. Bitboys people, premises and intellectual property will be "fully integrated" into ATI's Handheld Business Unit.

Bitboys said the deal furnishes its team with the sales and financial resources to compete in an increasingly crowded market, while ATI gets the addition engineering expertise it needs to do the same thing. In particular, the move will help ATI combat arch-rival Nvidia in this arena. Nvidia likewise acquired handset graphics middleware developer Hybrid Graphics in March this year.

Bitboys began making headlines in the late 1990s when it announced its Glaze 3D super-chip, though the name was subsequently dropped. It claimed the part would deliver desktop 3D graphics acceleration way beyond its rivals' products in part thanks to the use of embedded DRAM technology licensed from Siemens - an approach Bitboys called its Xtreme Bandwidth Architecture - but also by using multiple GPUs to render scenes co-operatively.

The company originally said it would ship the first Glaze GPUs in Q1 2000, but when the time came, the deadline was put back to Q3. By Q2, however, Bitboys announced it had pushed back the release again, to H2 2001.

Bitboys never shipped the part so far as we can tell, at least not in the form originally intended, and at some point in the early 2000s decided to focus instead on handheld-oriented GPU designs which it would license ARM-style rather than produce itself. It launched the first of these Acceleon core designs in June 2003. It has regularly updated the designs ever since and winning business from handset vendors, most notably NEC, which agreed to build the GPU cores into its mobile phone SoCs. ®

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