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Intel Corp. said during a conference call with financial analysts that it will start to send sample of its forthcoming Larrabee processors in late 2008. Given that Larrabee project is believed to be related to Intel’s discrete graphics processing units (GPUs) and sometimes the latter are referred to as “Larrabee”, the claim may be viewed as Intel’s reiteration of plans to re-enter GPU market in 2009 or 2010.

“Larrabee first silicon should be late this year in terms of samples and we’ll start playing with it and sampling it to developers and I still think we are on track for a product in late ’09, 2010 timeframe,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel.

Intel left the market of discrete graphics processors back in the late nineties after the Intel 740 graphics adapter did not become a success. After that the company concentrated on creating very basic graphics cores to integrate into core-logic sets. However, since the demand towards high-performance graphics processing is increasing, Intel is currently working hard to increase performance of its integrated graphics processors (IGPs). Additionally, it is generally believed that Intel is working on discrete graphics chips.

If Intel’s discrete graphics processors emerge in late 2009 or early 2010, then it is unclear whether these GPUs support DirectX 10.1 feature-set, or are made according to Microsoft DirectX 11 specification. Given that the first samples of the Larrabee are set to emerge this year already, it is highly likely that the actual products will be produced using 45nm process technology.

Earlier rumours said that Intel Corp. plans to enter the market of standalone GPUs in late 2008 or early 2009. Therefore, the official plans to release the product only in ’09 or ’10 may indicate a delay, or may be too conservative.

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