It’s been a pretty long time since we’ve heard anything major come from the likes of S3 Graphics, but that doesn’t mean they’re dead – not by a long shot. The GPU maker has survived several dot-com bubbles and reinvented itself a number of times before settling as the graphics arm of distant x86 3rd place finisher VIA technologies.
Or, well. It was the GPU part of VIA’s technology portfolio. No longer. Superphone superstar HTC, out of Taiwan, has snapped up the graphics division from VIA, becoming the dominant shareholder in the company. It may seem surprising that a mobile phone maker is now getting into the processor market, but it makes sense for HTC. While the company owns a number of technologies all on its own, it has to rely on 3rd parties such as Qualcomm, Texas Instruments or PowerVR.
The war for mobile graphics is really starting to heat up, and as players such as Apple and Samsung keep bringing out more and more powerful handsets, HTC needs to find some way to bring some support of its own to the table. It’s important to remember that even on mobile devices, GPUs are used for much more than gaming – the chips are used to support window rendering, basic OS functionality such as camera processing, and even GPGPU functionality.
Devices are becoming quick enough, in fact, to consider replacing both your desktop and your notebook with just one of these palm-sized units. Also, it’s important to look at all that S3 has to offer HTC – while the graphics capabilities are nice, the controlling stake gives HTC access to a substantial portfolio of well over 200 technological patents. As Microsoft and Apple seem to become increasingly litigious in this area, that new patent buy-in provides HTC with some additional measure of support.