Intel’s once-promising plan to take on Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices in chips that deliver high-end graphics was already looking troubled. Now it looks pretty much dead.
A statement Tuesday about that effort, delivered in a blog post on Intel’s website, is the latest fallout from stumbles in delivering a chip dubbed Larrabee that was expected to be used for high-end graphics and other applications.
Intel is a huge supplier of graphics circuitry that comes as part of its chip sets–accessory products that link its better-known microprocessors to the rest of a computer. The company plans to keep offering those products, and also is moving to combine graphics on the same piece of silicon with its Atom microprocessor.
Larrabee, however, was expected to move Intel for the first time into the market for what the industry calls “discrete” graphics, which refers to separate, specialized chips used to render sophisticated visual images in videogames. But the first version of the product was delayed, and Intel in December said it would not bring out that version. The company added at that time, however, that it was committed to bringing “world-class” graphics products to its customers.
On Tuesday, however, Intel spokesman Bill Kircos appeared to back even further away from that direction. “We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term,” Kircos wrote in the blog post, reiterating Intel’s statements in December that the company “missed some key product milestones.”
The Larrabee technology will likely live on in chips aimed at high-performance computing, Kirkos said.
Paul Otellini, Intel’s chief executive, had made essentially the same point at its analyst meeting earlier this month, though stated in chip-speak that might have been open to differing interpretations. He said Intel has “taken the risk essentially associated with the new architecture of Larrabee out of our roadmap over the next few years, so we have the flexibility to stay competitive while still working on it.”
Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Techologies Associates, says Larrabee’s main problem is not that it couldn’t handle graphics, but that it drew too much power to fit in laptop computers–where the bulk of Intel’s sales go. “They couldn’t do it in the power envelope,” he said. “That was really the key.”
And discrete graphics chips, while they get a lot of attention from gamers, really don’t represent a very large or growing market, Kay added.
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