Intel doesn’t like to be talked about in a disparaging way. After a long time of no delivery on a product, effectively making it vaporware, a new amount of work is going into the Larrabee project, and the actual product may be materializing.

This morning, which is odd enough, as not much news in the computer business breaks on Saturday, a story comes from Bright Side of News, telling us that Intel is contacting possible partners who will build the upcoming Larrabee graphics cards.

Currently, there isn’t a project in Intel that is pulling more resources [both human and financial] than Larrabee. Given the status of the program, we are not surprised to see top engineering dogs from CPU divisions flying between Larrabee centers, pulling everything together in order to get Larrabee out the door during 2010. Our sources still say that product introduction prior to CeBIT 2011 is unwise and risks damage to Intel’s brand image, given the immature state of the project.

So it is not something coming out at CES in a couple of months; the information up until now has been correct, things are coalescing, but nothing is solid just yet.

Then again, we’ll see who will win – engineering attitude is now in the front seat. It is more than obvious how marketing had its way with Larrabee so far, and while talking crazy promises to the press or analysts [“We’ll have a 32nm CPU die and 45nm Larrabee die for notebooks in May 2009” – former Intel Exec] can’t cost you more than a temporary stock bump or downgrade, talking the same to eco-system who then has to invest serious money into preparing their own infrastructure – can cause a loss of several million real-world dollars. For instance, we learned that one whole marketing campaign [digital future livelihood] was created for Larrabee and ultimately used on a product line from Intel’s competitors speaks volumes in what situation some AIBs found themselves in.

I find it odd that Intel feels it needs partners on this, I would have thought all Larrabee parts would be coming from some yet-unknown location with a genuine Intel branding.

In order to compensate for the lost investment that angered partners who signed and invested significant resources in preparation for “Larrabee coming in first quarter 2009”, Intel had to change the attitude from “we’re almighty” to “we know we screwed up”. In fact, in conversations with our sources, it was interesting to see the change that showed to them how Intel managed to eat a humble pie and wants to talk on equal terms.

That Intel would ever have to eat crow in this day and age is amazing. Again, there simply seems to be no explanation I can think of, other than the fact that Intel may feel that add-in-board status for graphics is dying and will see one generation from Intel, and one generation only, that it has not been planning to release everything Larrabee as Genuine Intel.

This is quite significant change, since back in 2007 and 2008, we were hearing AIBs telling us of the attitude by top Intel Larrabee guys such as Patrick P. Gelsinger, Jim Woodruff and others. That attitude was that “AMD is harmless, nVidia is dead.” The only two companies that signed on-board were EVGA and XFX, with several other vendors being refused due to lack of global presence. Allegedly, it was this attitude that annoyed AIB [Add-In-Board] manufacturers with some major partners refusing to commit to the program. However, in the light of Larrabee troubles and missed deadlines, Intel actually turned into a more responsible company. Intel also had one unexpected ally – according to our sources, nVidia is refusing to eat the humble pie even though they massively screwed up with GT300/Fermi/Furbie and that’s angering a lot of people in their ecosystem.

The difference in attitude between companies with delayed products is quite interesting: while nVidia is now putting majority of GT200 chips in Tesla cards [due to a recent sea of orders] and leaving their GeForce partners bleed to dry, Intel has re-approached its previously signed partners and some hopefuls with a new attitude. The chip giant is now offering to bundle chipsets at “rock-bottom to free” prices with Larrabee cGPUs as a compensation for created expenses. Before you cry foul and “antitrust”, this is a standard business practice of compensating for previous screwups made by one party. This is nothing unusual.

Nothing changes allegiances like money, or the prospect of it. By bundling chips like this, the manufacturers can offer the video cards at lower prices (to sell more of them) yet be making more profit per board, which of course, is aces with them. It tends to make them sit up and say, “Yes, please!”

BSN believes that the differences in the market will be good, with nVidia and ATi having to sit up and act like grown-ups at the graphics table, ready to treat their customers with respect. Perhaps little S3 will get more serious about things also, knowing it might just be time to put up or shut up, before it gets squeezed out of the graphics market permanently.

We know that’s a good thing. And should prices go down for middle to top line cards, so much the better.

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Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.

George Santayana

Prayers for, and condolences to, all those involved in the Ft. Hood difficulties this week.




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