Intel is releasing the Larrabee graphics chip for high-end PC gaming in late 2009 or 2010, but the company is already talking up the chip’s capabilities in a new paper.
Depending on the model, Larrabee will feature between eight and 48 cores, each of which will have super-fast inter-communication and increase the chip's ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.
For example, Intel argues that by having greater numbers of smaller cores, instead of single or dual cores, Larrabee will be able to support better experiences for gamers – a key target audience.
It's purely coincidental that the update comes just days before AMD updates journalists on its graphics strategy and unveils some new silicon at its CTO summit in Iceland.
Larry Seiler, a senior principal engineer at Intel, told journalists at the unveiling of the paper - dubbed Larrabee: A Many-Core x86 Architecture for Visual Computing - that the chip overcomes the limitations of current graphics processors. He added that it provides “the full programming abilities of a CPU” alongside “the parallelism that is inherent in graphics processors”.
Larrabee supports Microsoft's DirectX and OpenGL APIs, which will help software developers to create visual and graphics intensive applications that take full advantage of the chip.
Larrabee will support IEEE standards for single and double precision floating-point arithmetic, which is already featured in AMD and Nivida GPU models.
Jon Peddie Research (JPR) told Bloomberg that success in the high-end graphics market could add up to $4bn to Intel's sales in 2010 - provided it performs as well as rival chips from Nvidia and AMD.
JPR’s latest figures show that 94.4m GPU units were shipped during the first quarter of this year, representing a drop of 0.5 per cent from the previous quarter. However, shipments grew 16 per cent from the same period in 2007.
Intel took pole position in Q1, with 47.3 per cent of the market, whilst Nvidia – which today denied it’s leaving the chipset market – and AMD took 31.4 per cent and 18.1 per cent market shares respectively.