A month from now AMD will roll out the ATI Catalyst 8.12 driver which will add stream computing capabilities to ATI Radeon HD 3000 and Radeon HD 4000 series graphics cards, this is basically AMD's answer to the NVIDIA CUDA GPGPU computing technology. Catalyst 8.12 will be rolled out on December 10 and will have the Compute Abstraction Layer (CAL) runtime built in.
Unlike Nvidia's CUDA, which is really a set of development tools, the ATI Stream label covers everything from GPU-based parallel computing to apps that use the graphics rendering pipeline in non-traditional ways. That means that GPU-accelerated PDF rendering and GPGPU scientific computations both fall under the ATI Stream umbrella.
On the more concrete side of the endeavor, AMD plans to release a new Catalyst graphics driver on December 10 with the Compute Abstraction Layer (CAL) runtime built in. If you read our interview with AMD's Patti Harrell in June, you'll know CAL essentially bridges the gap between high-level programming interfaces (like Brook+) and Radeon GPUs. Right now, AMD supplies the CAL runtime DLL to developers, and those developers have to distribute it with their software—an iffy approach from a compatibility standpoint, since new driver releases could break compatibility with old CAL DLLs. From the Catalyst 8.12 release onward, AMD will include the CAL library with the graphics drivers.
Instead of waiting for third parties to take advantage of these updates and create consumer GPGPU apps for Radeon users, AMD will offer one together with the new Catalyst release. As far as we can tell, the new Avivo Video Converter will more or less mirror the functionality of the Elemental Badaboom video transcoder we wrote about recently, but with two key differences: it'll run on AMD GPUs, and it won't cost $30.