Tom Forsyth, a guy who is working on the Intel Larrabee project, wrote a message on his blog last week to clear up some misunderstandings.
He says Larrabee is going to render DirectX and OpenGL games through rasterization just like GPUs from ATI and NVIDIA and that raytracing is just a fascinating research project and not the focus of Larrabee's primary rendering capabilities.
There's only one way to render the huge range of DirectX and OpenGL games out there, and that's the way they were designed to run - the conventional rasterisation pipeline. That has been the goal for the Larrabee team from day one, and it continues to be the primary focus of the hardware and software teams. We take triangles, we rasterise them, we do Z tests, we do pixel shading, we write to a framebuffer. There's plenty of room within that pipeline for innovation to last us for many years to come. It's done very nicely for over a quarter of a century, and there's plenty of life in the old thing yet.
There's no doubt Larrabee is going to be the world's most awesome raytracer. It's going to be the world's most awesome chip at a lot of heavy computing tasks - that's the joy of total programmability combined with serious number-crunching power. But that is cool stuff for those that want to play with wacky tech. We're not assuming everybody in the world will do this, we're not forcing anyone to do so, and we certainly can't just do it behind their backs and expect things to work - that would be absurd. Raytracing on Larrabee is a fascinating research project, it's an exciting new way of thinking about rendering scenes, just like splatting or voxels or any number of neat ideas, but it is absolutely not the focus of Larrabee's primary rendering capabilities, and never has been - not even for a moment.
Forsyth also tells us that Intel will continue to build on the current rasterization pipeline designs and will attempt to add new stuff that ATI and NVIDIA don't have yet:
We are totally focussed on making the existing (and future) DX and OGL pipelines go fast using far more conventional methods. When we talk about the rendering pipeline changing beyond what people currently know, we're talking about using something a lot less radical than raytracing. Still very exciting for game developers - stuff they've been asking for for ages that other IHVs have completely failed to deliver on. There's some very exciting changes to the existing graphics pipelines coming up if developers choose to enable the extra quality and consistency that Larrabee can offer. But these are incremental changes, and they will remain completely under game developers' control - if they don't want to use them, we will look like any other fast video card. We would not and could not change the rendering behaviour of the existing APIs.