Intel: Initial Larrabee graphics chip canceled – will focus on notebook graphics

Well, last week, Intel shocked the world (or at least Wall Street) by announcing that it’s much touted Larrabee graphics processor will initially appear as a software development platform only – not as a chip as everyone had expected.

Some could say that this is a blow to the world’s largest chipmaker, which was looking to launch its first discrete (standalone) graphics chip in more than a decade. It would be like saying the King Kong got hit by a falling pebble.

Don’t think Intel is too worried about it.

Intel spokesman Nick Knupffer said Friday, “Larrabee silicon and software development are behind where we hoped to be at this point in the project/ As a result, our first Larrabee product will not be launched as a standalone discrete graphics product.”

Justin Rattner (Intel Senior Fellow) demonstrated Larrabee hitting one teraflop, which is great but basically anyone could walk into Fry’s and buy an ATI graphics board for a few hundred dollars that would do five teraflops.”

Oh yeah, in case your wondering, a teraflop is 1 trillion floating point operations per second, a key indicator of graphics chip performance.

Larrabee, a chronically delayed chip, was originally expected to appear in 2008. It was slated to compete with discrete graphics chips from Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices’ ATI graphics unit. Well, to say nVidia and AMD are dancing naked in the street might be an understatement; they are both happy with the resulting upward trend of their stock.

At least until today, when Intel announced that it will focus on next-generation laptop technology that combines graphics functions with the main processor. Remember, Intel still remains the leader in the high-volume “integrated” graphics market, and the world’s largest chipmaker is about to up the ante in this market for low-cost graphics technology, which many consumers ask for instead of high-performance chips from Nvidia or AMD’s ATI .

In late December, Intel will unveil the first such product, codenamed “Pine Trail“, that puts the graphics function directly onto the same piece of silicon as the main “CPU” processor, a major departure from current technology which puts the graphics in a separate piece of ancillary silicon called the chipset.

Intel will quickly follow this up with a CPU-graphics combination chip for laptops dubbed “Arrandale” that will integrating the graphics function onto the CPU; which is a feat that AMD–despite its purchase of graphics chip giant ATI in 2006–has yet to achieve.

Arrandale is expected to be rolled out at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Hopefully nVidia and AMD will have fun at CES which Intel it’s lunch!!


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