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Are Integrated Graphics Processors Headed For Extinction?

The trend is not expected to affect the add-in market for graphics cards that boost graphics processing in higher-end PCs, analysts with Jon Peddie Research suggest.
Are today's popular graphics processor chipsets integrated into PC motherboards headed for extinction? Chipmakers are now embedding the technology into the same silicon as the microprocessor, giving credence to the claim, a market researcher said Wednesday.

The integrated graphics processor, or IGP, has been used for years in desktops, laptops, and a variety of embedded systems, such as point-of-sale and signage systems and set-top boxes. In 2008, 67% of the graphics chips shipped were IGPs, which have seen 15 years of stellar growth, Jon Peddie Research said in a report titled "The Future Of Integrated Graphics."

By 2011, however, the percentage of IGPs will fall to 20%, and by 2013, it will be less than 1%, Peddie says. But contrary to popular belief, the trend will not affect the add-in market for graphics cards that boost graphics processing in higher-end PCs. In fact, hybrid configurations will arise where embedded graphics enhance sales of add-in GPUs.

Between 2010 and 2012, there will be three choices for graphics: GPUs mounted on add-in cards for motherboards, IGP chipsets, and microprocessors sharing silicon with embedded graphics, Peddie says. One or more of the devices will be in PCs.

Eventually, market share of the options will shift as IGP suppliers, such as Advanced Micro Devices, Intel, Nvidia, Silicon Integrated Systems, and VIA, find demand for the chipsets diminishing, Peddie says.

Market maneuverings are already under way by the vendors. Nvidia is strengthening its high-end graphics card with its CUDA development tools for building applications that can tap the GPU's processing power. On the mobile side, Nvidia has introduced the Tegra platform, which relies on an ARM processor and Nvidia graphics.

Tegra moves Nvidia into competition with Intel, which is also moving graphics processors next to the CPU. Intel plans to start producing microprocessors with graphics chips on the same piece of silicon in the fourth quarter.

AMD, on the other hand, is planning to release its first integrated CPU/GPU on a single die in the second quarter of 2011, Peddie says. AMD has competed with Nvidia for a while through the former company's ATI graphics unit.

VIA has yet to disclose its plans, but the chipmaker and its S3 graphics subsidiary are trying to challenge Intel on price in key emerging markets such as mini-laptops, also called netbooks.

The first IGP was Sun Microsystems' LEGOS, which was released in 1989 for the company's Sparc processor. The first IGP for the PC was introduced by Silicon Integrated Systems for Intel processors in 1997.

Advanced graphics are still one of five disruptive technologies to watch. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this and the other four. Download the report here (registration required).

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