Based on the Intel Architecture (IA) and using a many-core approach that's facilitated by a new cache coherency design , the 'vector-augmented' GPU can be thought of, rather simply, as a halfway-house between a multi-core x86 CPU and current GPU. As such, Intel will continue to support incumbent APIs such as DirectX and OpenGL, but games developers will see higher throughput with Intel-written software. We expect future Intel SDKs to feature enhancements that are derived from recent acquisitions, too - Havok, for example.
Tech sites have been conjecturing on Larrabee performance since the very first details were leaked, yet Intel is steadfastedly holding on to a 2009 release date, pulled in some two years from initial estimates. Larrabee cards will sit in the same PCIe 2.0 x16 slot as any modern graphics board, of course, leading to greater competition for the established players.
Pat Gelsinger, senior Intel VP, wouldn't be drawn into commenting on Larrabee's performance, save to say that the end is nigh for the rigid pipeline present in present GPUs, but it's safe to assume that NVIDIA and ATI's (AMD) executives will be having a few more sleepless nights, thinking about how Larrabee's arrival will re-shape the mid-to-high-end of the discrete graphics-card market.
At a roundtable discussion on day two of Spring IDF 2008, Gelsinger stated that Intel would not sell Larrabee-based products directly, as it does with CPUs and select motherboards. Rather, thinking more of the channel, the company would leverage the manufacturing and marketing infrastructure of present tier-one/two AIBs, much as ATI and NVIDIA currently do.
Such a statement will have a profound effect on current AIBs who are tied in with either of the two leading discrete GPU companies. If Larrabee is good, and there's no reason to suspect that Intel will not eventually get it right, will leading AIBs jump ship, to the detriment of their current, often volatile, relationships with the incumbent duo?
For example, in 2009, could eVGA and Sapphire go from being NVIDIA- and ATI-only houses to purveyors of Intel Larrabee cards?
Loyalty is often only as deep as someone's chequebook, and the biggest chequebook in town doesn't belong to the green and red teams, does it?
We reckon that 2009 will see a significant shake-up of AIBs' fortunes. The question is, we suppose, who stands to lose most of out Intel's imminent arrival in the discrete GPU space?