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Intel nurses 'black eye' on Larrabee, as AMD, Nvidia get to work

Canceling long-awaited Larrabee graphics chip gives rivals time to get ahead

December 9, 2009 03:12 PM ET

Computerworld - While Intel nurses a self-inflicted wound after pulling the plug on its long-anticipated Larrabee graphics chip, analysts said rivals AMD and Nvidia need to make hay with the extra time they've been given.

Last week, Intel announced that it was nixing the release of its Larrabee graphics processor. Larrabee, which had been loosely defined as a graphics chip with between 10 and 100 cores, initially was slated for release in 2009. Then Intel pushed the release date back to 2010. Finally, it pulled the plug on an official release date all together.

Larrabee was to be Intel's first discreet graphics processor.

Nick Knupffer, an Intel spokesman, told Computerworld that the silicon and software for Larrabee were behind schedule so release plans had to be cancelled. He would not say what problems caused the delay.

"We remain committed to getting a graphics product out in 2010," said Knupffer. He declined to say whether that product would be Larrabee or a different graphics processor, but stressed that there would be a many-core graphics chip announced in 2010.

"We have been talking about Larrabee for quite some time - since 2007," said Knupffer. "We are disappointed the product is not where we expected it to be. Obviously, this is not our ideal scenario."

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, called this a significant cancellation for Intel, one that could help its rivals, AMD and Nvidia pull further ahead in the graphics realm.

"This represented Intel's major push into high-end graphics and their response to AMD's Fusion efforts. It had high strategic importance," said Enderle, adding that there was some doubt in the industry as to whether Intel could pull Larrabee out. "This was a substantial miss, given how much focus they had put on this part. Actually, this is both bad news for Intel and good news for AMD and Nvidia."

Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group, noted that for Intel to be top dog in all things semiconductor, which seems to be on the company's to-do list, it needs to throw its hat into the graphics chip part of the business. Does Intel need the graphics business to be successful and stay in the black? Definitely not. But it does want that business.

"Nvidia has been moving to gain the high ground very quickly over the past few years and they've done a good job of staying ahead of both Intel and AMD," added Olds. "Larrabee was supposed to be an Intel response that would give them a significant advantage of Nvidia. With the death of Larrabee, this gives Nvidia a clear path for the next couple of years, at least.... This definitely gives both Nvidia and AMD more time for them to make chips while the sun shines."



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