Intel cancels Larrabee, plans future uses for its features

Intel won't market the graphics processor, but will use elements of it in server and laptop processors

Intel won't ship its Larrabee graphics processor, but elements of the chip will be used in future server and laptop processors, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.

The company on late Tuesday said it wouldn't bring its first discrete graphics processor to market, ending speculation about the chip's fate after the company last year said it would miss its scheduled 2010 commercial release.

Programmable Intel architecture for graphics and computing was a focus of Larrabee, said Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesman. The technology, which was due to be used in the graphics card, will instead be applied to future multicore server chips and laptop processors. Research and development around the Larrabee technology will continue, Kircos said.

Elements of the Larrabee chip will first show up in server processors, Kircos said. Intel next week will talk about "how an upcoming family of products targeting the high-performance computing segment were derived from Larrabee," at the ISC 2010 conference in Hamburg, Germany, Kircos said.

Larrabee features won't be in the next generation of Core-branded laptop processors due for release next year. Those chips will be part of the Sandy Bridge architecture and manufactured using the 22-nanometer process. But over time, Larrabee technology will make it to laptop processors, he said.

Intel officials in the past have said Larrabee features would be used in graphics cores that can be integrated into CPUs.

The Larrabee chip was characterized as a highly parallel, multicore x86 processor designed for graphics and high-performance computing. It would have given Intel a vehicle to compete with Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices, which both offer discrete graphics products for HPC.

Intel planned to start selling Larrabee this year, but late last year delayed the commercial release after falling behind in the chip's development. At the time, industry observers speculated that the chip had been canceled.

"We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term," Kircos wrote in a blog entry on Intel's Web site late Tuesday. The company will instead use elements of Larrabee in multicore processors capable of running parallel programs in HPC environments, he wrote.

Intel earlier this month said it would release a successor to its eight-core Nehalem-EX chips next year with more cores and faster speeds. The new chips, code-named Westmere-EX, will be for four-socket and higher servers. The company is also developing an experimental 48-core x86 chip with a mesh design, but has not announced plans for commercial release.

Intel isn't turning away from PC graphics, Kircos wrote. The company intends to develop multimedia capabilities inside processors, given that a larger number of online videos are being viewed daily, billions of photos are being posted, and online content is quickly moving to high-definition formats.

"We are focused on processor graphics, and we believe media/HD video and mobile computing are the most important areas to focus on moving forward," Kircos wrote.

The company is "boosting funding and employee expertise" to develop integrated graphics and multimedia technology, he wrote.

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Agam Shah

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