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AMD licenses ATI phone GPU tech

Own products to focus on audio, video?

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AMD today said it will license its graphics technology for handheld devices, signing up STMicroelectronics as one of its first customers. The move comes a day after it launched new media processors aimed at... er... handhelds.

But maybe these apparently contradictory moves with prove complementary. AMD's launch yesterday centred on the Imageon 2298, 2294 and 2192 chips. All three focus on sound and video rather than 3D graphics, with AMD's pitch for the parts centring on how they can be used in phones not only to deliver high-quality video and audio playback, but also to handle tasks like noise-cancellation and call enhancement, output to TV and video transcoding.

Clearly AMD believes these media features are more appealing to mobile phone makers than 3D graphics acceleration, which is one of the functions rival graphics chip maker Nvidia is keen to push. That said, AMD does offer a phone graphics part that does 3D graphics: the Imageon 2300.

Graphics processing technology of the kind found in the 2300 will now be offered up to other chip makers. STMicro's deal, for example, sees the European semiconductor firm licensing AMD's 2D, 3D and vector graphics core engines and the software that allows them to be used with the OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.0 APIs. STMicro will incorporate the technology into its Nomadik chip family.

The move allows AMD to take advantage of demand for 3D graphics in phones while avoiding the risks involved in designing and producing chips to meet that demand. Let others like STMicro take a chance. If demand reaches a certain point, AMD will surely whip out a phone-centric GPU of its own.

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