The next Catalyst pilots will be the first to integrate support for Stream technology from AMD. Equivalent to CUDA, it allows you to use the GPU as a massively parallel processor. Although the pioneer in this area, AMD has for a long time been behind Nvidia, who have had a very efficient approach and strategy in terms of the development of their technology, while AMD was simply treading water. Little by little AMD has caught back up.
Nvidia then, had around a year and a half headstart in terms of integration of its technology in pilots for the general public. This headstart gave however no concrete advantage to Nvidia because the although the manufacturer did succeed in the pro market, the general public were more reticent.
Looking at the technology itself, we still have a preference for CUDA, with a more efficient structure than Brook+ and CAL. This said, the lack of interest shown by developers for general public software is largely linked to the absence of standardisation. That will change with DirectX 11 and OpenCL which should raise more interest and render the CUDA against Brook+/CAL comparison rather redundant. Of course, we are talking about the general public domain here.
On the pro side, Nvidia’s advantage is likely to last. Taking account of the time and cost required for development and validation, once a technology such as CUDA has proved its efficiency and reliability, it’s certain to have some good times ahead.
Determined to make its mark with the general public, Stream will come on the market accompanied by AVT. To recap, AVT (Accelerated Video Transcoding) is an interface that allows you to carry out video transcoding and encoding on the GPU. It was announced by AMD at the time of the Radeon HD 4800 launch but wasn’t yet available. Given that it’s integrated in the pilots, any piece of software will be able to make use of it on connection, just as for video decoding acceleration. AMD will also be releasing a version of AVIVO Video Converter at the same time and says that Cyberlink will be updating its Power Director 7 software to support AVT at the beginnig of 2009.
AMD, then, is putting into place the sort of platform we’ve been waiting for from Nvidia for such a long time! Nvidia didn’t judge it worthwhile developing this technology internally and preferred leaving it to other developers to pick up the baton. This is what Elemental did with Badaboom. Unfortunately, even a very limited verion of the software costs $30 and this at a quality that leaves something to be desired, the more evolved versions only available at significantly higher prices and therfore destined for the pro market.