ATI Technologies Inc, is a major designer and supplier of graphics processing units and motherboard chipsets based in Canada. In 2006, the company was acquired by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and was renamed to the AMD Graphics Products group. Despite the acquisition, the ATI brand was retained for graphics cards until August 30, 2010. AMD have announced that it will retire the "ATI" name and instead brand its graphics chipsets as "AMD" beginning in late 2010.
ATI Technologies is a fabless semiconductor company conducting in-house research and development and outsourcing the manufacturing and assembly of its products. Its main competitor is NVIDIA in the graphics and handheld market. The flagship product, the Radeon series of graphics cards, directly competes with NVIDIA's GeForce. These two companies' dominance of the market forced other manufacturers into niche roles.
Lee Ka Lau, Benny Lau, and Kwok Yuen Ho founded ATI in 1985 as "Array Technologies Incorporated". Working primarily in the OEM field, ATI produced integrated graphics cards for PC manufacturers such as IBM and Commodore. By 1987, ATI had grown into an independent graphics-card retailer, introducing EGA Wonder and VGA Wonder graphics card product lines under its brand that year. In May 1991, the company released the Mach8, ATI's first product able to process graphics without the CPU. Debuting in 1992, the Mach32 offered improved memory bandwidth and GUI acceleration performance. ATI Technologies Inc. went public in 1993 with stock listed at NASDAQ and Toronto Stock Exchange.
In 1994, the Mach64 accelerator debuted, powering the Graphics Xpression and Graphics Pro Turbo, offering hardware support for YUV-to-RGB color space conversion in addition to hardware zoom; early techniques of hardware-based video acceleration.
ATI introduced its first combination of 2D and 3D accelerator under the name 3D Rage. This chip was based on the Mach 64, but it featured elemental 3D acceleration. The ATI Rage line powered almost the entire range of ATI graphics products. In particular, the Rage Pro was one of the first viable 2D-plus-3D alternatives to 3Dfx's 3D-only Voodoo chipset. 3D acceleration in the Rage line advanced from the basic functionality within the initial 3D Rage to a more advanced DirectX 6.0 accelerator in the 1999 Rage 128.
The All-in-Wonder product line introduced in 1996 was the first combination of integrated graphics chip with TV tuner card and the first chip that enabled to display computer graphics on a TV set. The cards featured 3D acceleration powered by ATI's second generation 3D Rage II, 64-bit 2D performance, TV-quality video acceleration, analog video capture, TV tuner functionality, flicker-free TV-out and stereo TV audio reception.
ATI made an entrance into the mobile computing sector by introducing 3D-graphics acceleration to laptops in 1996. The Mobility product line had to meet requirements different from desktop PC, such as minimized power usage, reduced heat output, TMDS output capabilities for laptop screens, and maximized integration. In 1997, ATI acquired Tseng Labs's graphics assets, which included 40 engineers.
The Radeon line of graphics products was unveiled in 2000. The initial Radeon graphics processing unit was an all-new design with DirectX 7.0 3D acceleration, video acceleration, and 2D acceleration. Technology developed for a specific Radeon generation could be built in varying levels of features and performance in order to provide products suited for the entire market range, from high-end to budget to mobile versions.
In 2000, ATI acquired ArtX, which engineered the Flipper graphics chip used in the Nintendo GameCube game console. They have also created a modified version of the chip (codenamed Hollywood) for the successor of the GameCube, the Wii. ATI was contracted by Microsoft to create the graphics core (codenamed Xenos) for the Xbox 360. Later in 2005, ATI acquired Terayon's cable modem silicon intellectual property strengthening their lead in the consumer digital television market. K. Y. Ho remained as Chairman of the Board until he retired in November 2005. Dave Orton replaced him as the President and CEO of the organization.
On July 24, 2006, Advanced Micro Devices and ATI announced a plan to merge together in a deal valued at $5.4 billion. The merger closed on October 25, 2006. The acquisition consideration included over $2 billion financed from a loan and 56 million shares of AMD stock. ATI retained its name, logos and trademarks. ATI's then CEO Dave Orton was made the Executive Vice President of Visual and Media Businesses.
It was reported that in December 2006 AMD/ATI, along with its main rival NVIDIA, received subpoenas from the United States Department of Justice regarding possible antitrust violations in the graphics card industry.
In July 2007, AMD announced the resignation of Dave Orton. ATI, a subsidiary of AMD, is called the Graphics Product Group (GPG) inside the company. The top-level management of the Graphics Product Group consists of Rick Bergman, Senior Vice President and General Manager and Adrian Hartog, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Consumer Electronics Group. Both report to Dirk Meyer, CEO of AMD.
On 30 August 2010, John Trikola announced that AMD will retire the "ATI" brand for its graphics chipsets, and will brand future products as "AMD".
In addition to developing high-end GPUs (originally called a VPU, visual processing unit, by ATI) for PCs And Apple Macs, ATI also designs embedded versions for laptops (Mobility Radeon), PDAs and mobile phones (Imageon), integrated motherboards (Radeon IGP), and others.
ATI promotes some of its products with the fictional "Ruby" female character, described as a "mercenary for hire." Computer-animated videos produced by RhinoFX about Ruby on a mission (being a sniper, saboteur, hacker and so on) are displayed at large technology shows such as CeBIT and CES.
Computer graphics chipsets
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Graphics Solution / "Small Wonder" - Series of 8-bit ISA cards with MDA, Hercules, CGA and Plantronics Color+ compatibility. Later versions added EGA support.
Radeon Series - Launched in 2000, the Radeon line is ATI's brand for their consumer 3D accelerator add-in cards. The original Radeon DDR was ATI's first DirectX 7 3D accelerator, introducing their first hardware T&L engine. ATI often produced 'Pro' versions with higher clock speeds, and sometimes an extreme 'XT' version, and even more recently 'XT Platinum Edition (PE)' and 'XTX' versions. The Radeon series was the basis for many ATI All-In-Wonder boards.
IGP 3x0, Mobility Radeon 7000 IGP - ATI's first chipsets. Included a DirectX 7-level 3D graphics processor.
In addition to the above chipset ATI has announced that a deal has been struck with CPU and Motherboard manufacturers as of 2005, particularly Asus and Intel, to create onboard 3D Graphics solutions for Intel's new range of motherboards that will be released with their range of Intel Pentium M-based desktop processors, the Intel Core and Intel Core 2 processors, the D101GGC and D101GGC2 chipset (codenamed "Grand County") based on the Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. However, high-end boards with integrated graphics processor (IGP) will still use Intel GMA integrated graphics processors. The deal with Intel was deemed to be officially ended with the purchase of ATI Technologies from AMD in July 2006, with Intel announcing SiS IGP chipset (D201GLY chipset, codenamed "Little Valley") for entry-level desktop platform, replacing the "Grand County" series chipsets.
Multimedia and Digital TV products
All-In-Wonder series - A series of multimedia graphics cards which incorporating TV tuner and Radeon family graphics cards onto one add-in card, which, after being seemingly discontinued was relaunched as All-In-Wonder HD on June 26, 2008.
Flipper - The Nintendo GameCube (codenamed "dolphin" during production) contains a 3D accelerator developed by ArtX, Inc, a company acquired by ATI during the development of the GPU. Flipper is similar in capability to a Direct3D 7 accelerator chip. It consists of four rendering pipelines, with hardware T&L, and some limited pixel shader support. Innovatively the chip has 3 MiB of embedded 1T-SRAM for use as ultra-fast low-latency (6.2 ns) texture and framebuffer/Z-buffer storage allowing 10.4 GB/second bandwidth (extremely fast for the time). Flipper was designed by members of the Nintendo 64 Reality Coprocessor team who moved from SGI. The Flipper team went on to have a major hand in the development of the Radeon 9700.
Imageon - System-on-a-chip (SoC) design introduced in 2002 to bring integrated 2D and 3D graphics to handhelds devices, cellphones and Tablet PCs. Current top-of-line product is the Imageon 2298 which includes DVD quality recording and playback, TV output, and supports up to a 12-megapixel camera, with another line of Imageon products, the 2300 series supporting OpenGL ES 1.1+ extensions. The Imageon line was rebranded under AMD, after AMD acquired ATI in Q3 2006, as AMD Imageon.
Besides full products, ATI has also supplied 3D and 2D graphics components to other vendors, specifically the Qualcomm MSM7000 series SoC chips of handheld and upcoming Freescale i. MX processors. ATI claimed in May 2006, that it had sold over 100 million 'cell phone media co-processors', significantly more than ATI's rival NVIDIA, and announced in February 2007 that the firm had shipped a total of 200 million of Imageon products since 2003.
In late 2008, the entire handheld division was sold off to Qualcomm, so there will be no new Imageon products.
High Performance Computing
AMD FireStream, originally ATI Firestream, and previously rebranded as AMD Stream Processor for a short period of time, utilizing the stream processing concept, together with Close to Metal (CTM) hardware interface.
ATI currently provides proprietary graphics drivers, and also assists development of open source drivers. The proprietary drivers are called ATI Catalyst, and are available for most platforms: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows 7, Mac OS X, and Linux. Linux users can also opt to use open source drivers.
Hardware component companies which only provide proprietary drivers have always been urged by the GNU/Linux community to open source their drivers, or at least provide the necessary documentation for the community to write their own drivers. In a 2002 interview with AMD official Hal Speed, it was suggested that AMD were strongly considering making the functional part of the ATI drivers open source. However, until the merger with AMD, ATI had no plans to release their graphics drivers as open source code:
Proprietary, patented optimizations are part of the value we provide to our customers and we have no plans to release these drivers to open source. In addition, multimedia elements such as content protection must not, by their very nature, be allowed to go open source.
Since 2007 ATI has cooperated with the development of open source graphics drivers. Although ATI has not made their Catalyst drivers open source, the programming specifications for a number of chipsets and features were published in several rounds. This greatly changed their support of the development of open source graphics drivers, as until that moment only unsupported open source drivers existed. Besides releasing the specifications, ATI also funded the development of new open source drivers, and has even hired some employees to actively work on free software drivers.
1 ^ "ATI to be re-branded as AMD - branding, ATI Radeon, ati, amd - ARN". Arnnet.com.au. 2010-08-30. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
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