In the past couple of years, regular attendees to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) have seen a fundamental change in the makeup of the business: Mobile service, hardware and software vendors have taken up an increasing amount of the show floor. Graphics chip maker ATI Technologies, now part of Intel rival
AMD, aims to compete for their attention with new efforts.
This new interest in products designed to work on cellphones and smartphones bodes well for Apple’s entry into the market this June with the
iPhone, said Evenden, who was careful to caution that his company’s products aren’t being used in that system.
“The iPhone is going to change the industry in terms of focusing on the user interface, making it front and center,” Evenden told
AMD’s efforts include the development and promotion of graphics hardware that will accelerate the display of vector graphics — the same kind of graphics technology used in Adobe Flash and by Mac desktop applications such as Adobe Illustrator and Freeverse’s Lineform. AMD has worked which Khronos to promote OpenVG, a new resolution-independent and compact graphics format that’s ideally suited for the mobile market.
“We have hardware to do OpenVG that’s faster than software and more power-efficient than making a CPU do the heavy lifting,” Evenden said.
With ATI’s merger with AMD
finally complete, the company is also looking for new business opportunities in markets it hasn’t exploited in the past.
“Part of our strategy has been to license our technology to other companies for them to incorporate into their own products,” Evenden said. The net result is that instead of making tens of millions of chips themselves, they’ll see hundreds of millions of chips made using designs they’ve created. This is what’s known in the semiconductor industry as a “fabless” business model, and it’s one that ATI rival Nvidia has used with great success over the years.
With the new hardware currently being demonstrated and new software tools on the way to tap new capabilities in the mobile space, ATI estimates that new products will be hitting the market in 12 to 18 months that will sport these new features.
“We have an emulation system we’re now using so developers can get an idea of how their code will run on different memory footprints, different screen resolutions and aspect ratios and different clock speeds,” Evenden said.
While a lot of this effort might seem superfluous to Mac users, the development of much of this technology has a positive trickle-down effect for Mac users, said Evenden.
“Outside of a few exceptions, OpenGL is not used on Windows as a gaming API,” said Evenden. “By and large, the entire industry depends on DirectX.”
DirectX is the suite of application programming interfaces, or APIs, created by Microsoft to exploit hooks in the Windows operating system.
But OpenGL — the 3D graphics API used by Apple — is far from dead, he said. AMD, Nvidia and others actively support the technology in their hardware, and it’s the API of choice for game console developers working on Sony’s PlayStation 3 game console. What’s more, Khronos has developed OpenGL ES 2.0, a compact version of the technology designed to scale to mobile and embedded devices.
“All of that obviously helps OpenGL developers on the PC, and indirectly helps the Mac,” said Callan McInally, AMD’s 3D Applications Research Group manager.
“We’re getting a lot of demands for these sorts of tools,” McInally said. “That’s why we offer full OpenGL support across the board.”
Apple’s focus on Intel microprocessors in the new Macs might seem to some like an impediment to AMD’s continued support of the Macintosh platform, but Evenden and McInally don’t see any conflict.
“There’s no hindrance,” said McInally. “We’ve played well with Intel for years.”