Rumor: The Sony switch to Intel's Larrabee chip

Here's the rumor of the weekend, if not the week: Sony will use Intel's Larrabee chip in its upcoming PlayStation 4.

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
2 min read

Here's the silicon scuttlebutt of the weekend, if not the week: Sony will use Intel's Larrabee graphics chip in its upcoming PlayStation 4. (Let's not forget the other tantalizing piece of speculation this week: the Nvidia-powered Microsoft smartphone rumor, which Microsoft apparently put to rest.)

We know for a fact that Jeffery Katzenberg at DreamWorks likes Larrabee--a lot. That apparently was one of the reasons DreamWorks dropped Advanced Micro Devices.

So, chalk that up as one big win for Intel's somewhat-murky next-generation graphics chip due late this year or 2010. Now Sony? A report this week in the U.K.-based technology Web site The Inquirer claims Sony favors Larrabee over Nvidia for its PlayStation 4. (The other major piece of silicon used in the current PlayStation is a Cell processor developed jointly by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba.)

For the record, an Intel spokesperson said the company "cannot comment on rumor or speculation." Sony in Europe reportedly didn't mince words, however, comparing the report to some of the 20th century's great fiction. Though another reported comment from Sony is more insipid and PR-like.

The U.K. report claims Intel paid to play. The report also hinges on the premise that Sony doesn't like Nvidia anymore. (And claims there are others that feel the same way about Nvidia.) Even if there is some special hatred there (as the reporter claims), that's not news--and applies to just about any acrimony-ridden hardware relationship in Silicon Valley. (Just peruse some of the tender exchanges between Intel and Microsoft in court records over the years.)

Anti-Nvidia bias (which is palpable in the report) aside, if there is a broader truth to this, that is, that game box makers are considering Larrabee, the chip would become a serious contender and take its place with GPUs from Nvidia and AMD's ATI graphics unit. But we won't know this for a while since no one (that I know of) has actually put Larrabee through the paces (though DreamWorks has hinted at this). And the PlayStation 4 isn't due, reportedly, until 2012.