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AMD goes where Intel isn't: Mobile phone processors

AMD offers new mobile phone graphics technology and hooks up with STMicroelectronics

AMD is doing something Intel can't do: compete in the massive mobile phone market. AMD processors and mobile graphics technology were disclosed at the 2008 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday.

AMD Imageon chip and concept device
AMD Imageon chip and concept device AMD

The Imageon A250 applications processor is used for video recording/playback and photo imaging, among other applications, and can be programmed for multimedia and high-level graphics, referred to as vector graphics.

The Imageon D160 mobile TV solution is a hardware and software package that allows mobile phone makers to receive over-the-air broadcast TV signals in a USB-powered device. The chipmaker also introduced the Imageon M210 audio processor for high-definition audio.

AMD is also offering graphics technology separately. The company's Z460 3D graphics taps into the same patented AMD Unified Shader Architecture that provides a graphics platform for the Microsoft Xbox 360 video game system, AMD said. Shaders are used for rendering 3D objects. AMD Z180 graphics technology is targeted at navigational systems and portable devices designed to handle animation, mapping, and Flash-style content. The Z180 features a native hardware-accelerated vector graphics solution, designed to render graphics between 20 and 40 times faster than software-based solutions.

The Imageon technology announced in Barcelona is a refresh of technology announced about a year ago, said AMD spokesperson Jo Albers, and came to AMD when it purchased ATI Technology back in 2006. AMD's strategy in this respect has differed dramatically from Intel's. The latter offloaded its handheld processor business to Marvell Technology around the same time that AMD purchased ATI. Intel is now trying to get back into the ultramobile game with Silverthorne (due later this year) but that processor, though small and relatively power efficient, is too power-hungry for compact mobile phones (though conceivably Silverthorne could be used in iPhone-like devices).

Imageon chips are currently used in over 50 mobile phones and devices from companies like Motorola, LG, Panasonic, and Samsung. And AMD offers graphics technology to Freescale Semiconductor, Qualcomm, and STMicroelectronics, among others.

The new chips, however, won't appear in products until the end of this year or next year because of the length of the design cycles, AMD said.

In related news, STMicroelectronics is using AMD technology in its application processors. The STMicroelectronics Nomadik STn8820 multimedia application processor is based on an ARM 1176 core and can achieve speeds as fast as 528 MHz. The processor integrates AMD's graphics technology for 2D and 3D applications, STMicro said. More here.