When it comes to discrete PC graphics, there are really only two choices. You can go with nVidia or you can go with ATI. Each has their strong points, and it's been an all-out brawl between the two when it comes to processing power, frames per second (FPS), driver support, and features.
Well, starting in 2011 you can't choose ATI anymore.
Back in October 2006, CPU giant AMD merged with ATI. Starting at the end of this year, all future ATI hardware will be re-branded as AMD parts.
I can't say this is a surprise, really. Many people thought (as I did) that AMD would have re-branded ATI immediately after the purchase. I'm actually kinda surprised it took this long. AMD might not have the name-recognition that Intel does, sure, but it's still a huge name in processors. Perhaps they just thought that ATI was a better name at the time.
Most likely forcing their hands now, is AMD's upcoming Fusion technology. What fusion does, is takes the processing power of a CPU, and ties it in with the GPU (graphics processing unit) in a single package. Chances are they wanted the AMD name front and center on anything related to the CPU market. I can understand that. AMD has spent a lot of time and money making a name for themselves against Intel, now they want to show off how much they've accomplished with the new tech.
From the AMD Fusion website:
AMD Fusion is a new approach to processor design and software development, delivering powerful CPU and GPU capabilities for HD, 3D and data-intensive workloads in a single-die processor called an APU. APUs combine high-performance serial and parallel processing cores with other special-purpose hardware accelerators, enabling breakthroughs in visual computing, security, performance-per-watt and device form factor. Software developers, utilizing AMD drivers, libraries and either the ATI Stream SDK2 or the Microsoft DirectCompute API, can enhance the user experience and speed application performance by developing applications that fully utilize the unique compute power of the AMD Fusion™ Family of APUs and AMD discrete GPUs.
Expected in the second half of 2011, it sounds like this tech is going to mostly be aimed at pre-built desktop PCs (dells, HPs, and the like), as well as the notebook/netbook and tablet markets. More specific application announcements are expected in early 2011.