ATI, emulating Nvidia, turns its graphics chips into CPUs

ATI Technologies Inc. Wednesday announced the availability of a free download that enables its powerful-but-underused graphics processors (GPUs) to take on the work of a computer's CPU.

The ATI Catalyst 8.12 software driver lets HD 4000 series-based cards accelerate tasks, such as converting DVD video into compressed video for smart-phone screens. The drivers would run on the 2 million graphic cards sold to date by vendors using the above Radeon graphics processor from ATI,

The cards can perform other tasks normally done by the computer processing unit, such as playing back high-definition video or rendering video game images. This frees up the CPU to do other work.

the technology is dubbed "ATI Stream."

To show its potential, ATI released free Avivo Video Converter software which takes advantage of the Radeon HD 4000's graphics processors to let users convert video as much as 17 times faster at up to 720p quality, said Dave Nalasco, a technical expert with ATI, during a webcast today. The entire archived webcast is by clicking on "On Demand" and then "Live Show Wed Dec 10 2008."

Other software that takes advantage of ATI Stream include 's PhotoShop CS4, After Effects CS4, Flash 10 player and Acrobat Reader, 's , PowerPoint 2007, Expression Encoder and Silverlight player, and several others. Video-editing applications from CyberLink and ArcSoft are expected by March.