Intel not joining graphics chip alliance

A group that includes AMD, ARM, and Texas Instruments is trying to tap into the graphics chip's horsepower. Intel isn't interested in the initiative, though.

Intel will not join a chip-related alliance aimed at making it easier for software developers to take advantage of the compute power locked up in graphics silicon.

Advanced Micro Devices, ARM, Imagination Technologies, MediaTek Inc., and Texas Instruments announced the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) Foundation on Tuesday.

Here's how Lisa Su, an AMD senior vice president, described it in a phone interview with CNET.

"The point is, even if you put a really powerful CPU next to a really powerful GPU, if these [chips] don't interact and the applications don't know when it's better to operate on the graphics side and when is it better to operate on the CPU side, you're not taking advantage of all that compute horsepower," she said, referring to the central processing unit and graphics processing unit.

Su continued. "This is meant to make it easier for software developers. So they're not designing specifically to AMD's features or Intel's features but designing to a set of application standards. There's an entire industry out there beyond just the PC market -- whether it's smartphones, tablets -- where GPU acceleration is going to be helpful."

Another goal is to make development more accessible to mainstream programmers not just the elite echelon of programmers, she said.

And anyone is welcome, including Intel. "We've said anybody can join. We think we've gathered a list of strong partners to kick off the foundation," according to Su.

But a source close to Intel say it has no plans to join the foundation. That source cited, for example, an analogous foundation called OpenCL, which Intel supports along with AMD, Nvidia, and ARM.

The source added that Intel welcomes any discussion on how to unlock the potential of both CPUs and GPUs. But the world's largest chipmaker is not sure HSA will provide the flexibility for its customers, according to the source.

And at least in the PC and Mac market, Intel is in the driver's seat right now. All of Apple's MacBook Air models use Intel's "Ivy Bridge" CPU-GPU combo and most of the ultrabooks pouring out of factories in Asia rely exclusively on Intel processors.

Updated on June 14 at 11:50 a.m. PST: clarifying Intel Ivy Bridge discussion at bottom.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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