The world’s biggest maker of x86 central processing units and supporting chipsets has been eyeing the market of standalone graphics processors for some time and, according to rumours spread at Computex Taipei 2007 trade show, will finally enter it a little sooner than expected.
Several makers of graphics cards have already been contacted by Intel in regards of roll-out the company’s first discrete graphics solutions in years. DigiTimes web-site reports that if current plans go smoothly, the launch of the new products is projected to be “around early in the second quarter of 2008”. Not everything is yet clear with Intel’s product roadmap: so far the company has not provided its potential partners specifications of the forthcoming graphics processing units (GPUs). It is expected though that the company will “deliver a more complete roadmap and specifications” in the Q4 2007.
Intel has been working on a new standalone graphics processors for several years now, licensing various technologies from companies like ATI Technologies (now part of Advanced Micro Devices), Nvidia Corp. and even funding a startup that develops universal multi-GPU technology. Intel’s first discrete GPU will support DirectX 10 feature-set and should also feature advanced capabilities found in today’s graphics processors (sophisticated memory controllers, video processing capabilities and so on). Still, the company reportedly plans to concentrate on graphics cards priced below $300, performance-mainstream and mainstream markets, and not go into high-end and premium classes, where a single graphics board may cost more than $800.
But powerful hardware is not everything on the GPU market: hardware and driver developers need to release high-quality drivers and work with game developers to tweak games for their graphics chips. According to estimations by Nvidia, which it presents to its partners, Nvidia GeForce 7050 runs 90% of games as expected and 10% with some issues, whereas integrated graphics core of Intel G965 core-logic displays only 60% of top 30 games properly, 17% with some issues and 23% either do not work at all or display substantial corruption.
While the market of standalone graphics cards is stagnating now and is doomed by game consoles, popularization of notebooks and integrated chipsets, its revenues are still about $5 billion a quarter, which is more than a significant amount of money even for Intel and the company's expansion in this space would mean considerably lower earnings for companies like AMD or Nvidia Corp. Moreover, more advanced graphics technologies may allow Intel to sell its chips to makers of game consoles eventually, which are sold in quantities that may reach hundreds of millions, another revenue source for both AMD/ATI and Nvidia. Additionally, graphics chips may be used for general purpose computing tasks, yet another promising market segment.
Intel did not comment on the news-story.