AMD Makes Cellular Graphics Push

A 12-megapixel camera in your cell phone? That’s what Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is shooting for with its new Imageon line of processors for the embedded and mobile markets.

The Imageon line is a legacy from ATI Technologies, which AMD  acquired last year. ATI first released the Imageon in 2003.

Considering they are meant for cell phones, the Imageon 2298, 2294 and 2192 media processors sure do a lot. All three are meant to offer multimedia features like DVD-quality video, image stabilization, high-resolution imaging and DVD quality video output.

The three chips will offer camera resolutions of 12, 5 and 3 megapixels. The 2298 and 2294 are meant to offer features like video telephony with echo cancellation and image stabilization, while the low-end 2192 is a little less ambitious, but still handles things like 2D imaging.

That’s awfully ambitious functionality for a camera phone, admits Andy Thompson, director of marketing for the AMD handheld division.

“The general statement we’re making is we’re taking these features from being a marketing statement, but no one would actually think to use it in a cell phone and making it possible,” he told

Cell phones are, of course, limited by the amount of data they can store, so the high quality video or photos would have to be saved to a Flash card. The Imageon can also transform the video from H.264 to the lower resolution MPEG4 to reduce size. The chips will also support video out via USB or composite video ports.

However, power is the number one concern, and AMD will not compromise power consumption for video quality. “If that DVD video only functioned for 15 minutes, that’s not going to interest anyone. So we have to do things within battery life,” said Thompson.

Separately, AMD announced a new business for licensing its graphics technologies to cell phone application and game developers. This intellectual property (IP) licensing initiative combines graphics chips, developer tools and developer support.

This includes 2D, 3D and vector graphics chips and software that is OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.0 standards. AMD is pushing OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.0 as standard methods for rendering graphics.

There are plenty of game developers on cell phones, such as Jamdat, which Electronic Arts acquired for $680 million in 2005. However, none of these developers have a standard method for writing software, and there are no dedicated graphics accelerators for these games like there are on personal computers.

“The type of gaming content you see in the cell space is software-based Java stuff. That makes it easy to run on every phone but the bar is pretty low,” said Thompson. “That was a necessary solution at the time, but the right way to do it in the future is with hardware acceleration.”

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