By now we should all know the story about Larrabee and Intel’s failed venture into the world of professional and consumer discrete graphics.  Early in 2007 Intel announced plans to deliver a fully programmable GPU architecture built around a collection of small x86 cores with some custom texture hardware.  We saw progression through the year and into 2009 that culminated with a very underwhelming set of “demos” and ray tracing examples.  Just a couple of months later, the project was “delayed” – a word that big companies like Intel use rather than “cancel” in order to prevent frightening the investors.

Intel admits Larabee was 'impractical' and power hungry - Graphics Cards  1
A screenshot of a ray tracing demo from IDF 2009

At the Intel Developer Forum this month, one of the key people behind Intel’s attempt to target NVIDIA and AMD’s discrete GPU business, Tom Piazza, shared some more insight into what went wrong.  As many people inside the competition theorized during Larrabee’s development, Tom said, “I just think it’s impractical to try to do all the functions in software  in view of all the software complexity.  And we ran into a performance per watt issue trying to do these things.” 

Intel admits Larabee was 'impractical' and power hungry - Graphics Cards  2
The Larrabee that never was, nor will be

It seems that even Intel realizes now that fixed function hardware definitely has a place in computing still and x86 isn’t everything for everyone.  “Naturally a rasterizer wants to be fixed function.  There is no reason to have the programming; it takes so little area for what it does relative to trying to code things like that.”

When asked pointedly if he ever expected a Larrabee-based graphics solution to be released in the future, he stated simply, “I don’t think so.”