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Mobile TV may outpace 3D offerings in handsets

Posted: 16 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:rick merritt? 3D graphics? gaming? mobile TV? ATI technologies?

In the race to pack advanced media features into cellular phones, 3D graphics for gaming is lagging, while mobile TV is gaining. At least, that's the view from graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies Inc.

"We have been pushing 3D for handsets, but it will take a while longer. Meanwhile, mobile TV seems to be moving ahead faster in cellphones," said Azzedine Boubguira, director of marketing for ATI's handheld group.

ATI has helped establish some significant beachheads in the cellular world. It helped South Korean carrier SK Telecom write its "Giga" specification for using graphics on its network, and it licensed its 3D technology to Qualcomm Inc. for use in its CDMA chipsets.

ATI estimates it has sold 100 million of its Imageon media processors for handheld devices, including design wins in some 35 handset models for top-tier suppliers such as Motorola Inc. The chips support a broad range of features for a diverse set of markets.

"We're seeing a lot of market segmentation in what people want," said Razid Samdjy, a marketing manager in ATI's handheld group.

Higher pixel count
At today's entry level, there is support for 1.3Mpixel cameras and VGA video. Midtier markets want 3Mpixel imaging and CIF video at 15fps. The top of the line wants 5Mpixel imaging, H.264 for video at 30fps and 3-D graphics for games.

The latter set of features describes ATI's latest Imageon, the W238X. Its primary claim to fame is its ability to render 30,000polygons/s at a sustained 30fps. It provides that performance while supporting a number of PC-like graphics features, including reflections and bit mapping.

With all its features turned on, the chip consumes less than 120mW while serving a QVGA display. It also reduces power consumption by as much as 85 percent due to the use of dedicated silicon rather than software on the host for media processing, said Samdjy.

The 130nm chip has 640KB of embedded SRAM. It can come with 8MB or 16MB of frame buffer memory stacked inside its package.

It should come as no surprise that ATI believes handset makers should cater to today's diverse markets by teaming a single baseband with a family of pin-compatible media processors with different software loads and stacked frame buffers. The approach can improve time-to-market by eliminating the need to requalify new baseband/radio combinations with carriersa six-month process.

Much of the sizzle in cellular these days is around mobile TV. "You will see many new form factors in handsets," Samdjy said.

But the mobile-TV wave will soon spill beyond the cellphone.

"We're targeting a whole range of deviceslaptops, PDAs, portable media players and maybe even new devices people haven't conceived of yet," said Michael Schueppert, president of Modeo LLC, speaking at a panel discussion at the recently held Consumer Electronics Show.

Throwing its hat in this already crowded ring, ATI has also announced that it will supply a full mobile-TV solution that includes its own DVB-H demodulator, a third-party tuner and a full software stack. The 12-by-12mm module will consume 100mW on average and cost $10 in volume.

ATI's module supports multiple digital rights management schemes, including those from Microsoft and the Open Mobile Alliance. The module will be available in volume in May, although commercial deployments are not expected to ramp until next year.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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