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Intel delays Larrabee GPU, aims for developer "kit" in 2010

updated 06:45 pm EST, Fri December 4, 2009

Analyst cites performance as main reason for delay

Intel is delaying the launch of its much-anticipated Larrabee standalone graphics chip. While only admitting that its Larrabee discrete graphics chip project was behind schedule and that it would initially only appear as a software development platform "next year," one analyst suggests that the company may be missing its performance targets for Intel's first major-market graphics chip.

Designed to compete with products from ATI and Nvidia, Intel's many-core graphics chip has been delayed multiple times: in May, Intel detailed its 32-core Pentium-based Larrabee chip with a parallel x86 architecture that would add "new languages" as a solution, but quietly noted that its previously targeted late 2009 launch would be missed and that it expected to launch its first Larrabee product in the first-half of 2010. Intel, however, declined to provide any reasons for the delay. Nvidia has openly questioned the parallel architecture, as the much-hyped Larrabee has been delayed since 2008.

On Friday, the world's largest chipmaker again was vague about the specific reasons for the delay, but said the product would not launch as a standalone graphics product. Instead, the company would launch a "kit" to allow developers to build on the platform.

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

The kit will be used by third-party developers as well as internally, Knupffer added, but he declined to say whether other versions may appear after the initial software development platform product or whether a mainstream launch was still slated for sometime in 2010.

One analyst quoted by CNET believes that Intel is not hitting its performance targets for the chip, noting that Larrabee was running at one teraflop at the SC09 supercomputing conference last month, but ATI, a subsidiary of rival AMD, is already selling products that run at five teraflops for a few hundred dollars, he added.

Demonstrated in September, Larrabee is based on 32 Pentium-based cores that are optimized both to talk to each other and to run the vector math often used in graphics, especially in 3D; the design counts on having fewer but more powerful cores than most dedicated graphics cards, including currently shipping entry-level cards.

Recent reports indicated that Intel was hoping to use preferential pricing to break into the GPU market currently dominated by Nvidia and ATI, as some of the first-tier graphics card makers are reportedly apprehensive about early adoption of the new Intel GPU platform due to a fear of bugs in early samples.

Written by Monish K Bhatia

By Electronista Staff


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