With mobile PC's increasing in popularity, to the point where the sales revenues of portable platforms have overtaken those of desktop PC's, the graphics capabilities and technologies of them are increasingly getting greater focus. With the expansion of options of mobile PC's, so too have graphics solutions expanded, now ranging from the very low-end integrated graphics, all the way up to the very high end desktop graphics chips being available. We've asked ATI's mobile graphics division some question about this market and the specific needs that it requires addressing.

ATI has long since had a very large mobile market share in the with their Mobility line, what do you attribute the attraction from vendors to ATI is in this area?

There are a number of factors for ATI’s ongoing success in the notebook market. Firstly, we follow a tried and true formula of having a top-to-bottom family of full-featured products on schedule. This allows us to meet the needs of our OEM partners and ensure they have maximum choice, flexibility and performance when choosing ATI. In cases like the transition to Alviso, this enabled a virtual clean sweep of OEM design wins. Lastly, we have the best power management in the industry. The most sizable part of the market is the “thin and light” segment and ATI has three very compelling low-power/high performance propositions in this area. Notebook users no longer have to sacrifice battery life for a best-in-class DX9 visual experience.

With NVIDIA offering highly competitive products in the desktop space, which seemingly translate to their mobile equivalents, it must be getting increasingly tough to maintain that market share. Presumably you are seeing increased pressure from NVIDIA on the mobile front?

When you have a roughly 70 per cent share of the market maintaining share over an extended amount of time can have its challenges. That being said, we have managed to hold a dominant share in our notebook discrete business for an extended amount of time. Moving forward, we will continue to drive innovation and push the boundaries of notebook graphics to maintain this market leadership.

While we have to continue our performance leadership in graphics and image quality there are other critical areas like power management and integration (such as CSP – for integrated memory), and efficient execution to ensure we maintain a competitive advantage. The designs in the market today have been over a year in the making, so you can of course assume we are already looking to 2006 designs for our next generation of solutions.

One part of the market that it appears that you have taken a bit of a hammering over recently is that of the integrated mobile space, especially with more vendors choosing to use Intel’s integrated graphics from the Alviso platform. Does ATI have the capability to address anything here?

Our integrated business continues to be important to us moving forward. We have introduced a new AMD DX9 integrated platform for notebooks that is the first to support Turion 64 for AMD. Watch for a number of new designs based on this platform. In the coming weeks we will be introducing a new PCI Express platform for Intel notebooks. On the Intel side we see new opportunities for growth in the low end of the market, particularly in Celeron M platforms – which Intel has earmarked as an area for growth.

Part of Intel’s attraction here is the complete solution they can offer with their chipset – does ATI plan to try and offer more integrated functionality within the entire platform logic?

Our strategy is to integrate when it makes sense. For example, we chose not to integrate Gigabit Ethernet so as to allow our partners more flexibility. This way they can use best-in-class technology from industry leaders like Marvell or Broadcom over PCIe. In some cases, like hi-definition audio, we chose to offer our customers both flavours – offering a Southbridge with and without integrated HD audio. PCI Express allows us increased flexibility in how we implement new technology on our chipsets, and this will become increasingly evident as we launch some of our enthusiast class platforms in the coming months.

What would you say was the importance of moving to PCI Express was for portable PC graphics?

The performance of new PCIe products like MRX700 and MRX800 blurs the distinction between portable and desktop graphics performance. The biggest element is probably one of investment protection. With HD applications around the corner, PCI Express gives notebook buyers the increased security in knowing their platform can scale to support their forthcoming computing needs.