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Nokia, SGI Team on Wireless 3D Standard

Wireless phone giant Nokia plans to team up with Silicon Graphics Inc. to develop a 3D standard for embedded mobile terminals based on SGI's OpenGL graphics standard.

OpenGL, introduced by SGI in 1992, is a vendor-neutral, multi-platform graphics application programming interface (API) and Nokia said the development and adoption of a 3D standard would help push the marketability of content services to consumers.

The agreement between the Finnish cell phone firm and SGI ties into an embedded devices standard that is being developed by the Khronos Group, a consortium of digital media and graphics industry players.

The Khronos Group -- which includes participating by 3Dlabs, ATI, Evans & Sutherland, Intel, SGI and Sun Microsystems -- is working on a range of media and graphics standards for non-mobile devices including game terminals, set-top boxes and avionics.

The partnership between SGI and Nokia would extended Khronos' embedded needs overall and extend the value for developers who write to OpenGL and want their applications to run across products from cell phones to supercomputers, the companies said in a statement.

"The possibilities of these mobile terminals will be virtually unlimited, ranging from top-selling interactive games, to video clips synchronized with text, to 3D global positioning systems (GPS), and 3D representations of buildings and terrains," SGI added.

It said the Khronos standard would complement the mobile Java standard being developed by an industry expert group representing major mobile phone companies, operators, and content and technology providers through the Java Community Process (JCP).

The OpenGL graphics system specification lets developers incorporate rendering, texture mapping, special effects and other visualization functions and provides a graphics pipeline that allows access to graphics hardware acceleration.

OpenGL is available on all other major computer platforms, including IRIX, Solaris, HP-UX, Compaq, BeOS, Windows NT, Windows 98 and Mac OS.

By cozying up to SGI's OpenGL, Nokia has again thrown down the gauntlet to software giant Microsoft , which is staking a patent claim to technology used within OpenGL.

According to reports, Microsoft is claiming it may own patents on the vertex programming technology (which relates to 3D effects such as lighting) and another technology called fragment shading.

OpenGL, popular because it carries no royalty fees and allows developers to write to the APL without a license, is seen as an alternative to Microsoft's DirectX, which was created for games running on the Windows platform.