San Jose, Calif. - Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. is one of nine new members of the Khronos Group consortium, signaling the company's possible interest in including the OpenGL Embedded Systems graphics application programming interface in future Playstation gaming systems. Other new members include Fujitsu, Samsung and Toshiba. In addition, Broadcom Corp. and three other companies have said they will adopt OpenGL ES, which has to date been aimed primarily at cell phones.
"Now that OpenGL ES has become established, I think you will see a couple of other industry sectors showing interest in it, including consoles, which typically use proprietary APIs, and consumer appliances such as set-top boxes and DVD players that want a more sophisticated 3-D API for advanced user interfaces and gaming," said Neil Trevett, senior vice president of marketing development for 3Dlabs Inc. Ltd., a 3-D graphics chip maker, and chairman of the Khronos Group.
A spokeswoman said Sony Computer Entertainment is investigating the use of OpenGL ES on its platforms. To date, Sony has used proprietary APIs that changed with each product generation, forcing developers to rewrite game code.
A standard API would make sense for Sony, said Jon Peddie, a research analyst in Tiburon, Calif. The company's next console will be its first to use the Cell processor, co-developed with IBM and Toshiba, Peddie said. That processor will likely span multiple product generations and thus will benefit from a common API. Sony's PSP handheld game system could also use the OpenGL ES, he said.
Further, Sony could embrace OpenGL ES in response to Microsoft Corp., which in March announced plans to create a unified graphics development environment that would let game developers write one title that could be used on both PC and Xbox consoles. That move is intended to attract more developers to Xbox, which currently lags Sony's Playstation and Nintendo's Gamecube in the number of game titles.
New working groups
Separately, the Khronos Group has formed two new working groups that will set graphics interface standards primarily for mobile systems. The OpenVG group will define an API for 2-D vector graphics, and the OpenMAX group will define one for a set of cross-platform graphics primitives for software developers. Both groups hope to have draft standards before year's end.
Handheld systems would benefit from hardware acceleration of 2-D graphics as a way both to sharpen images on their small screens and save power, Trevett said. "A general-purpose processor consumes a lot of power because you are always cycling the memory bus for data, but a well-optimized graphics processor typically does more graphics data caching and thus cycles the memory bus less often," he said.
Acceleration of 2-D graphics would bolster Web animations written in Macromedia Flash and would improve the crispness of Postscript fonts, Trevett said. It would also benefit maps used in global-positioning satellite systems and location-based services, analyst Peddie said.
OpenVG group members include Ericsson, Imagination Technology, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, Sun and Symbian.
The OpenMAX group will develop a low-level API that would let software developers call a standard set of media acceleration libraries to run their programs on any CPU that supports the API. Chip developers can then optimize those libraries for their architectures, shortening the time it takes to get new software programs on their latest CPUs. "This is intended to break that time-to-market bottleneck faced by chip makers," said Trevett. "There are a number of low-level kernel operations like matrix multipliers that dictate how fast media accelerators run." OpenMAX members include ARM, Motorola, Samsung, STMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments.