Saturday, February 02, 2008

Intel joins AMD with non-NDA'd GPU documentation

Caught the story on Phoronix earlier today that Intel has released programming documentation for their GPU's. There is a slight potentially factual error in Phoronix's article. Unless something has drastically changed with Project Larrabee, as I wrote back in 2006, it wasn't really shaping up to be a factor against Nvidia and ATi, something ArsTechnica noted in 2007.

One of the big features of Intel's release is that they've already included 3D support documentation for their GPU's, which AMD hasn't released yet. However, that isn't actually as surprising or in Intel's favor as you might think. Intel for years has used a Tile-Based architecture. This is the same type of rendering that was in PowerVR products, such as the Kyro Graphics cards and the Sega Dreamcast. Beyond3D has a good write-up on Tile-Based rendering. Ergo, the technology behind Intel's GPU's has generally been fundamentally different than the technology behind AMD or Nvidia GPU's.

One of the factors ATi talked about in 2003, 2004, 2005 and so on is that both their driver technology and their graphics cards used licensed technologies. Ergo, ATi, then AMD, couldn't just raw drop the documentation and driver code examples... doing so could have violated existing licenses.

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However, it is encouraging to see Intel get in line with AMD on providing non-NDA'd documentation for their GPU's. This leaves Nvidia as the only vendor who hasn't done so... which leaves the question of when Nvidia will release their non-NDA'd documentation.


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