Lack of a high-quality GPU may hold Intel back in its AI and VR chase

Intel is offering a plethora of chips for the fast-growing markets of artificial intelligence, VR, and AR, but it doesn't have a high-performance GPU

In 2009, Intel gave up on developing Larrabee, a homegrown discrete GPU, targeted at PC gaming systems.

Now, some analysts are questioning whether Intel needs its own high-performance GPU, a driving force behind the fast-growing gaming, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence markets.

GPUs aren't a big presence at the ongoing Intel Developer Forum, which is centered around the chip maker's AI and VR strategy. Intel is highlighting its CPUs and FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) for those categories, and the lack of a GPU to chase the hot markets could be a hole in the company's product line.

Intel has never been a leader in graphics, and it hasn't aggressively competed in the area, like Nvidia and AMD have. This week, it showed some progress in its graphics technology, saying its upcoming Kaby Lake PC chips will have integrated graphics processors with 4K support.

For AI, Intel is pitching high-performance chips called Xeon Phi, which were derived from Larrabee. At IDF, the company announced a specialized Xeon Phi chip called Knights Mill for AI. It also pitching FPGAs, which can be reprogrammed for specific machine-learning tasks.

With its current chip lineup, Intel doesn't believe it needs a pure-play GPU to pursue its AI strategy.

"Really, what most high-performance computers need -- they don't need a GPU -- they need parallel application performance, there are many ways to get that," said Jason Waxman, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Solutions Group.

But in multimedia applications, a homegrown GPU could help. If Intel had highest-performance GPUs like AMD and Nvidia do, the company would be able to participate in a wider capacity in VR and AR, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

"With what they have now, they can participate in VR and AR all the way from head-mounted displays to mainstream AI and VR ... with their CPUs," Moorhead said. But to use VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, PCs with Intel CPUs will still need high-end GPUs from Nvidia or AMD.

Intel may not need a GPU for AI with its Xeon Phi and software stack, but time will tell, Moorhead said.

Having one quality GPU to tackle the AI, gaming, and VR and AR markets could help Intel kill many birds with one stone, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

But the company has already burned a lot of money trying to build a GPU and hasn't seen success, McGregor said. Intel may not have the appetite to make a high-performance GPU, which can be challenging.

Moreover, Intel doesn't believe in the idea of a co-processor, or a separate processor, to accelerate certain workloads. It believes in building fully capable host chips that boot up computers and take on all workloads, McGregor said.

In the meanwhile, it can turn to AMD, Nvidia, or even Imagination Technologies for its graphics needs, McGregor said. Intel in the past also turned to ARM for graphics on its now-defunct low-end Atom X3 chip code-named Sofia.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags VR

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?