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MS previews 3D chip for PCs

Microsoft today gave the first detailed description of a 3D technology called Talisman that it hopes to make an industry standard.

Imagine a PC that makes 2D and 3D computer games look as cool as arcade games or capable of bringing the Web to life with a vastly improved ability to view 3D environments.

That's what Microsoft is contending its new chip technology, previewed today at the Siggraph trade show in New Orleans under the code name Talisman, will be able to do.

Microsoft faces stiff competition from the Silicon Graphics and others that have more experience with high-end graphics, but the company is said to have long-time ally Intel on its side as a development partner.

Jim Kajiya, chief architect for Talisman, said that Microsoft's chip technology will aim at a different market than the higher-end work stations. "Most of the $50,000 work stations are really for CAD (computer aided design) and this card isn't directed toward that market at all. Really what we're aiming at is interactive animation," said Kajiya. "It won't make sense to have animation on a Web page if people can't see it."

The chip technology, in development for more than two years by Microsoft's expanded research team, will vastly improve 3D graphics and multimedia applications. "Image compression is broadly exploited...to reduce image capacity and bandwidth requirements," according to a Microsoft statement released today. "Performance rivaling high-end 3D graphics workstations can be achieved at a cost point of $200 to $300."

Microsoft is providing the research to develop the chip and then plans to find partners to manufacture and integrate it for PCs as soon as next year, spokeswoman Shelby Barnes said.

"Basically what it's doing is bringing a new level of multimedia performance and speed to the PC with broad industry support," Barnes said. "What you'll see will surpass what you see in a video arcade."

Kajiya said Cirrus Logic and Fujitsu are going to manufacture the chips either for add-in cards or for motherboards of new machines.