Samsung Joins The HSA Foundation, Your Next Galaxy with AMD Inside?

Earlier this summer, AMD launched its HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture) foundation with a number of core partners. Now Samsung has joined the collaborative effort as well. This could be the beginning of an unprecedented level of cooperation between the APU designer and massive smartphone/tablet developer. The two companies already share certain technologies; Samsung and GlobalFoundries, AMD's chief manufacturing partner, are members of IBM's Common Platform Alliance.

The HSA Foundation is a non-profit established to promote "an open, standards-based approach to heterogeneous computing that will provide a common hardware specification and broad support ecosystem to make it easier for software developers to deliver innovative applications that can take greater advantage of today’s modern processors... companies will work together to drive a single architecture specification and simplify the programming model to help software developers take greater advantage of the capabilities found in modern central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), and unlock the performance and power efficiency of the parallel computing engines found in heterogeneous processors."

AMD is thrilled to have Samsung onboard, and has announced a number of additional members, including Apical, Arteris, MulticoreWare, Sonics, Symbio and Vivante. What this means for Samsung, and whether it signals a strategic shift in the company's long-term plans isn't yet clear. AMD doesn't currently have a smartphone-capable product line, but the company's next-generation Kabini APU (Brazos' 28nm successor) will deliver a potent combination of CPU and GPU performance in a tablet-capable form factor.

The Apple verdict may not be the final word in whether or not Samsung unlawfully infringed on its biggest competitor's patents, but it makes sense for the company to explore other product options in a bid to differentiate itself. Samsung, of course, has its own line of Exynos ARM products but has often used a mixture of hardware from both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

It's not clear yet exactly how HSA membership will affect product development. Presumably the architectural specifications AMD mentions are a developer framework target similar to OpenCL. This would allow various companies to implement their own unique hardware while offering a unified standard for developers to target, similar to the way DirectX and OpenGL run on AMD, Intel, and Nvidia GPUs despite significant differences in the underlying hardware. OpenCL was originally created to address this need, but AMD evidently feels there's a need for a separate foundation that focuses on similar issues.

This also likely ties to AMD's own long-term plans for its APUs. The company has previously implied that it sees a future where the GPU takes over from the CPU for FPU calculations and heavy lifting. The company's HSA roadmap remains fairly aggressive with successive GPU products offering deeper layers of integration between CPU and GPU through 2015.