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SGI's 3D goes mainstream

PC heavyweights Intel and Compaq are ushering Silicon Graphics' 3D technology into the high-volume mainstream market.

Silicon Graphics (SGI) announced today that eight companies, including Intel and Compaq Computer, will license SGI's 3D technology in a development that could accelerate the proliferation of 3D graphics for PCs.

The agreement should bring a technology previously confined mostly to powerful workstation computers into the mainstream PC market.

OpenGL is a software interface for producing high-quality color images of 3D objects. The SGI interface, commonly referred to as an application programming interface (API) will allow developers to create 3D applications that use SGI's advanced technology.

"OpenGL is an important 3D graphics standard for visual computing and it will greatly facilitate the flow of workstation graphics technologies to volume platforms," said Albert Yu, a senior vice president and general manager of Intel's microprocessor group, in a prepared statement.

Intel is making a big push into 3D graphics technology to create markets for its Pentium Pro processor and its upcoming Pentium II processor. The company is also expected to come out with a 3D graphics chip of its own this year. (Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)

Compaq, graphics board makers Elsa and Number Nine Visual Technologies, graphics chipmakers 3Dfx Interactive and Rendition, as well as InterDimension, a supplier of multimedia subsystems, are also new licensees of OpenGL.

Competing technologies include the Direct3D API from Microsoft (MSFT) and QuickDraw 3D from Apple (AAPL).