Intel: Initial Larrabee graphics chip canceled

Intel has delayed the release of its Larrabee graphics processor, saying it will initially appear as a software development platform only.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
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.
Brooke Crothers
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Intel said Friday that its Larrabee graphics processor will initially appear as a software development platform only.

This is a blow to the world's largest chipmaker, which was looking to launch its first discrete (standalone) graphics chip in more than a decade.

"Larrabee silicon and software development are behind where we hoped to be at this point in the project," Intel spokesman Nick Knupffer said Friday. "As a result, our first Larrabee product will not be launched as a standalone discrete graphics product," he said.

"Rather, it will be used as a software development platform for internal and external use," he added. Intel is not discussing what other versions may appear after the initial software development platform product, or "kit," is launched next year.

Graphics chip analyst Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research, said Intel is not hitting performance targets and this became apparent at the SC09 supercomputing conference last month.

"Justin Rattner (Intel Senior Fellow) demonstrated Larrabee hitting one teraflop, which is great but you could walk across the street and buy an ATI graphics board for a few hundred dollars that would do five teraflops." A teraflop is 1 trillion floating point operations per second, a key indicator of graphics chip performance.

Larrabee, a chronically delayed chip, was originally expected to appear in 2008. It was slated to compete with discrete graphics chips from Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices' ATI graphics unit.

Intel would not give a projected date for the Larrabee software development platform and is only saying "next year."

Intel says its plans are unchanged to deliver this month the first chip with graphics integrated onto the CPU. This new Atom processor is referred to as "Pineview" (the platform is called "Pine Trail") and will be targeted at Netbooks.

Updated at 4 p.m. PST throughout.

Updated on December 7 at 1:05 p.m. PST: adding comments about actual teraflops versus theoretical teraflops: The one teraflop cited by Rattner was actual, measured teraflops. Whereas the teraflops number that AMD has cited was theoretical. So, a straight comparison cannot be made.