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MS, Intel see 3D differently

Microsoft and Intel have distinct approaches for getting 3D graphics into computers and different schedules for getting the technology to market.

Microsoft (MSFT) and Intel (INTC) have distinct approaches for getting high-performance 3D graphics into computers and different schedules for getting the technology to market.

Microsoft is pushing a radically new 3D architecture dubbed Talisman. However, this is still on the drawing board with few takers among 3D graphics chip vendors at this time.

Intel, on the other hand, is beginning to promote its upcoming Intel740 as a 3D graphics accelerator. This is expected to be available later this year.

Microsoft was flaunting the advantages of its Talisman 3D graphics architecture at Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC), a major conference for PC hardware developers and manufacturers.

Its objective with Talisman is to allow mainstream PCs to have powerful workstation-class 3D graphics. Talisman does this by keeping most of the processing of data inside the graphics chip. Typically, much of the data handling takes place outside the graphics chip; consequently, a large performance penalty is incurred. Compression technology is also used to increase performance.

However, despite its vaunted advantages, Microsoft emphasizes that Talisman is "not a product but a technology initiative," said Jay Torberg, director of graphics and multimedia at Microsoft, speaking at WinHEC. Microsoft's technology "is licensed to the hardware community," he added.

Philips is one of the few graphics chip vendors promoting a Talisman-based 3D graphics architecture. At WinHEC, Philips representatives described a Talisman-architecture-based 3D graphics circuit board that would hold a Philips media processor and a Cirrus Logic graphics chip. Philips, however, had no firm idea about when a Talisman product might hit the market.

Meanwhile, Intel discussed its "building block" strategy for constructing a high-performance 3D graphics PC using its Intel740 graphics chip at WinHEC. Intel showed a slide of a PC with a Pentium II processor, an Intel740 graphics processor, and Accelerated Graphics Port technology.

But Intel representatives said they're still waiting for the people developing the Intel740 chip to deliver it for evaluation. "We're waiting. I keep telling them to hurry up and send it," one said.

The Intel740 is Intel's first commercial foray into the graphics chip business and this chip could shake up the 3D graphics industry. "This may put some of the smaller 3D vendors out of business," said Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, a marketing research company.