Nvidia Targets Multimedia Cell Phones With Graphics Tech

Nvidia hopes to bring console-quality graphics and fluid, digital video to mobile phones with its multimedia-minded GoForce 5500 graphics processing unit (GPU), announced this week at the 3GSM Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

The graphics giant said the new processor architecture would deliver improved graphics, video and sound, and was aimed at catching the “next wave of multimedia applications for 3G phones.”

Nvidia touted a demonstration of Electronic Arts’ OpenGL ES racing title “Need for Speed Most Wanted” and collaboration with Code Monkeys’ “Jump” at 3GSM, but broader game and device support may take more time to develop around the graphics platform.

“Really, it’s just a case of having software support and phones in place to take advantage of it,” Mercury Research President Dean McCarron told TechNewsWorld.

Console in Hand

The GoForce 5500 is a new, higher-end member of the GoForce handheld GPUs from Nvidia, which highlighted multimedia capabilities such as “true, fluid digital TV and video” with 30 frames per second (FPS) playback capability. The graphics hardware also delivers surround sound and is compatible with major mobile TV standards such as DVB-H, ISDB-T, and DMB networks, Nvidia said.

The GoForce 5500 also promises “console-class 3D gaming,” including titles such as “Quake III Arena,” on handheld devices.

The graphics processor supports up to 10-megapixel digital photography and relies on low power consumption to conserve entertainment and talk time on mobile phones.

Demand for Design

Indicating phones with GoForce 5500 technology should be available from handset manufacturers by the 2006 holiday season, Nvidia stressed the demand for the multimedia capabilities in cell phones.

“The Nvidia GoForce 5500 GPU delivers high-quality video playback and capture, high-resolution camera support, and stunning 3D graphics — all at impressive performance levels that we believe consumers are going to demand in the next generation of mobile devices,” said Michael Rayfield, Nvidia’s general manager, handheld GPU group.

Multimedia services are emerging as a significant source of revenue for wireless carriers and content providers, and significant uptake is expected in 2006, according to IDC analyst Mario Morales.

“Companies like Nvidia, whose products deliver compelling and tangible improvements to the overall end user experience of these new services, are well placed to take advantage of this surge in demand,” Morales said.

Integration Important

Still, it is a new market and while device makers are familiar with Nvidia’s technology, software developer, handset manufacturer, and carrier support have yet to take shape.

“The product itself and design is well established, it’s really more in the deployment side,” McCarron said of the biggest challenge for the new GPU.

The analyst added that unlike desktop PCs, notebooks or consoles, mobile phones are standalone products, and phones have a lot to integrate already.

“How they integrate will be important,” he said.

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