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S3 expects surge from Savage4

The graphics chipmaker touts its Savage4 architecture as it attempts to retake high ground in this intensely competitive market.

Graphics chipmaker S3 said today that it is one of the first to announce a product based on next generation technology, as it attempts to retake high ground in this intensely competitive landscape.

The announcement comes in the wake of a licensing deal with Intel signed in December--a 10-year technology cross license pact that allows S3 to use certain semiconductor patents and intellectual property rights.

Today, S3 announced its Savage4 graphics architecture, a design based on the next-generation version of the AGP graphics standard from Intel.

AGP has been widely used on personal computers hitting the market over the last nine months. It is designed to give lower cost computers many of the features of the graphics subsystems used on pricey workstations.

Currently, the standard for AGP performance is 2X, but S3's new chips are based on the upcoming 4X specification which is roughly twice as fast. S3 claims this is the fruit of a closer relationship with Intel.

The licensing pact "gave us more access to Intel and Intel's intellectual property," said Paul Crossley, an S3 spokesperson. "We missed the boat on AGP 2X?we did not listen to Intel, but we will not let that happen again," he said.

"Following our strategic agreement with Intel, Savage4 is the next major step toward S3's goal of graphics leadership," said Ken Potashner, president and chief executive officer for S3 in a statement.

It is now well documented that S3, previously the leader in the market, was not aggressive about bringing out the first generation AGP graphics chips and as a result lost ground in 1998 quickly to ATI Technologies, now the front runner.

ATI and other graphics chip makers such as Nvidia are also expected to compete aggressively in the 4X market.

"S3 wasn't the first 3D-chip company to announce a [4X] device. SiS beat them to the punch by a few days," said Peter Glaskowsky, senior editor at the Microprocessor Report. "At the same time, SiS announced its own patent cross-license agreement with Intel, though SiS doesn't seem to be claiming that it's one of Intel's validation partners, as S3 is," he added.

S3 also said today that it has announced its first major Savage4 customer. Diamond Multimedia Systems will use the Savage4 in an upcoming graphics-based circuit board.

"This is for games like Quake or CAD. This is true 3D," said Brian Gibson, a systems architect at S3.

The chip also features technology that speeds the playback of DVD titles such as movies. In addition, Savage4 includes the "Microsoft DirectX 6 3D feature set" as well as technology that takes advantage of the upcoming Intel Pentium III and AMD K7 processors, S3 said in a statement.

"The [chip] should help sustain S3 as it continues to develop its strategy for low-end systems...It should also have even better [products] to offer over the next year or so," Glaskowsky said.

The first computers shipping with Savage4 4X AGP chips are expected in the third quarter, Crossley said.

The Savage4 chip is priced at $25 each in quantity of 10,000 units.