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AMD, Nvidia gets Larrabee reprieve

Posted: 10 Dec 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Larrabee delay  processor  multi-core  x86 

Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia Corp. are getting long- as well as short-term reprieves from Intel Corp.'s decision not to release the first version of its Larrabee chip.

Intel said late last week it would not release its first implementation of Larrabee, a multi-core x86 processor geared for consumer graphics and technical computing. The chip targeted the high-end graphics markets of AMD and Nvidia beyond the reach of Intel's existing low-performance integrated graphics cores.

Now Intel plans to release the first chip as part of a software developer's kit to seed the market for next-generation Larrabee chips. Intel will announce in 2010 its plans for the development platform as well as future Larrabee chips, said a company spokesman.

Stock prices for AMD and Nvidia shot up seven and 14 per cent, respectively, on the news, according to reports from Reuters and others. "If you are at Nvidia or AMD you can breathe a sigh of relief," said Nathan Brookwood, principal of Insight64.

Longer term AMD and Nvidia may gain a broader strategic advantage.

Part of Intel's rationale for running graphics on an array of x86 cores was it would make programming easier that developing for the even larger arrays of proprietary graphics cores used by AMD and Nvidia. However, that advantage appears to be narrowing.

Microsoft's Windows 7 includes a DirectCompute applications programming interface to run big parallel jobs on traditional graphics processors. Meanwhile, the OpenCL API developed by the Khronos group and backed by a broad range of companies including Apple Inc. is also gaining traction.

"Over the next two years while Intel is re-architecting Larrabee, AMD and Nvidia will ship hundreds of millions of GPUs capable of parallel processing with OpenCL and DirectCompute," said Brookwood. "More and more we'll see application developers use those tools, and they won't even know whether the work is being done on an x86 or GPU core," he added.


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