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Goodbye to traditional Intel graphics?

A new report says the venerable integrated graphics chip market will fade away, replaced by "embedded" graphics more closely yoked to the main processor.

A new report says the longstanding integrated graphics chip market will disappear--a market that Intel currently dominates.

In a report entitled "Integrated graphics chip market to disappear by 2012," Tiburon, Calif.-based Jon Peddie Research forecasts the end of the market for "the popular integrated graphics processor chipset...after 15 years of stellar growth."

Many low-end and mainstream consumer and business laptops sold over the last five years use Intel graphics built into the chipset, a low-performance but cheaper alternative to discrete graphics chips from Nvidia and ATI. That's made Intel, ironically enough, the market leader in graphics chip market share despite the performance deficit. In 2008, Intel's market share, by quarter, was typically over 50 percent, while Advanced Micro Devices (ATI's parent company) and Nvidia bounced around in the 20 to 30 percent range.

Overall, in 2008, 67 percent of the graphics chips shipped were integrated. In 2011 this will drop to 20 percent, and by 2013 it will be less than 1 percent, according to Jon Peddie.

Intel is moving graphics into the same package as the processor.
Intel is moving graphics into the same package as the processor. Intel

So what will take its place? "Embedded" graphics built into the same chip package--and later onto the same piece of silicon--as the main processor, according to the report. In the fourth quarter of this year, Intel will bring out a 32-nanometer mobile processor code-named Arrandale that integrates graphics silicon into the same chip package as the main processor, or CPU. Advanced Micro Devices has plans to "fuse" the CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit), probably sometime in 2011.

All of this has already happened in the smartphone market. Processors from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Nvidia put graphics on the same piece of silicon as main processor.

And what about Nvidia and ATI and their high-octane graphics chips? "This will not, as many believe, impact the discrete graphics and add-in board market. In fact, with hybrid configuration, embedded graphics will enhance the discrete GPU sales," the report said.

Between 2010 and 2012 there will be three choices for graphics, according to Jon Peddie: traditional discrete GPUs mounted on add-in boards and/or the motherboard, integrated graphics processor chipsets, and processors with embedded graphics. One or more of these devices will be employed in PCs.

A short history lesson, courtesy of Jon Peddie: the first integrated graphics controller was Sun Microsystems' Legos, which came out in 1989 for the company's SPARC processor. The first integrated graphics controller for the PC was introduced by Silicon Integrated Systems for Intel processors in 1997.