Analyst: Intel's Larrabee chip needs reality check
Written by Daniel   
Friday, 12 September 2008 13:08

 Not so fast. That's the gist of a report that says Intel's future graphics chip will face a grueling battle to gain ground against entrenched and very capable competitors. 

September 12, 2008 4:00 AM PDT 
Posted by Brooke Crothers

 When Larrabee was disclosed in August, it sent shockwaves through the chip industry. After all, this was Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, announcing its intention to assail one of the last major PC chip markets it has yet to dominate: standalone "discrete" graphics processors--or GPUs. Larrabee is due to ship in the 2009-2010 time frame. Intel already dominates the market for integrated graphics silicon: graphics functions integrated into Intel chipsets come virtually free on tens of millions of PCs shipped worldwide every year, an offer that many PC vendors find hard to refuse. The resulting less expensive PCs are, in turn, welcomed by consumers. 


But the discrete graphics market is different creature. It is dominated by Nvidia and AMD's ATI graphics chip unit. Both companies supply chips that easily rival--or best--any Intel chip in complexity. Nvidia's latest chip, the GTX 280, boasts 1.4 billion transistors and 240 stream processors. In short, it is an extremely complex parallel-computing engine. 

"Intel claims Larrabee is a graphics engine intended to outperform Nvidia's GPU offerings. The audacity of this claim is startling," according to a report issued by Ashok Kumar, an analyst at investment bank Collins Stewart. "Nvidia has had over 10 years to optimize the 3D graphics pipeline, the necessary drivers, the platform connections needed to supply the memory bandwidth required, and to work with the software and apps developers," he writes. (Note: Kumar started coverage of Intel at Collins Stewart on September 4 with a "buy" rating.)

Intel doesn't necessarily disagree with the spirit of the statement. "I certainly expect Nvidia and ATI to carry on being successful," Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, said in an interview this week. "They both have considerable expertise and customer base and all of that," he said.   [C/Net news...]    [Comments...]

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