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Motorola mobiles get 3D games engine

Motorola has adopted graphics technologies from Japan to help developers build 3D applications and games for its range of mobile phones

Motorola will be using Japan's most popular 3D graphics technologies in its new mobile phones in an effort to claw back sales from market leader Nokia and rising star Samsung.

On Tuesday, Motorola announced that its developers will be able to use Tokyo-based Hi Corporation's Mascot Capsule Engine -- which allows real-time 3D graphics rendering -- to develop new applications and games. The Mascot Capsule has already been adopted by Japan's J-Phone and NTT DoCoMo, who control the vast majority of their domestic market.

As the lines separating smartphones and connected PDAs continue to blur, 3D graphics are expected to be a standard feature on mobile phone handsets, especially. Just as with PCs, mobile devices will soon have separate processors for handling graphics because this eases the main processor's workload and allows more complex and better looking applications to be executed.

Mike Olivarez, systems architect at Motorola, agrees that 3D games will push some mobile phone users to upgrade, but he expects corporate applications will also play their part: "There are developers making games that require 3D graphic displays and games will be the initial driver. But with a PDA-sized screen, somebody could be out in the field and pull up full colour diagrams that they need to work on," he said.

However, John Metcalfe, vice president of business development at chip designer Imagination Technologies, which also has a close relationship with Hi Corporation, does not think that true 3D games and applications will be possible until handsets come fitted with a separate graphics chip. "3D graphics on mobile phones is almost exclusively a software market. But that will start to change from next year when handset manufacturers introduce hardware enabled phones. As with PCs, they will transition over time," he said.

Andrew Brown, research manager of mobile computing at IDC, said that Motorola have traditionally been very good at adopting new technology, but very bad at targeting their products to a specific segment of the market: "They were first with a tri-band phone and GPRS handset, but they haven't got the feature/function/price balance right," he said.

According to Brown, it will take more than a "pretty phone" to pull Motorola out of its slump. "Motorola is using partnerships to give its handsets more appeal and hit the game playing market," said Brown who was not optimistic. "It's all very well partnering with a company that can provide a 3D graphics engine for a handset, but you have to get your segmentation and market strategy right. That is where Motorola needs to focus its efforts."


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