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IDF: What's Cooking for Intel's Big Show?

It's that time of the year for Intel developers and customers alike. Several thousand will make a pilgrimage to San Francisco this week, where weather is reportedly going to be in the 90 degree range, for the Intel Developer Forum, to find out what the chip giant has in store.

This will be the first IDF without Pat Gelsinger, the former CTO who created the Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) event in 1997 and was a prominent and popular speaker at the event. He jumped ship to become President and Chief Operating Officer of storage giant EMC last week, and will be replaced on stage by Sean Maloney, executive vice president of the Internet Architecture Group. Intel CEO Paul Otellini will give the opening keynote Tuesday.

Larrabee, Intel's GPU project, may well make an appearance at IDF to quiet fears and gossip that it's behind schedule. Intel has consistently said Larrabee would be available in the first half of 2010 and has not deviated from that date, noted Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research.

"I expect to see something about Larrabee. I'm not sure what but it should be proof of concepts of Larrabee," Peddie told InternetNews.com. He also had one pretty wild speculation: that Intel would show off new optical communications techniques that use fiber optics to replace the traditional cabling in computers.

"If [the big surprise of the show] is not Larrabee I don't know what it's going to be," said Nathan Brookwood, research fellow with Insight 64. If Larrabee is delayed in any way, then he doubts Intel will talk much about it.

This past May during Intel's annual meeting with financial analysts, Larrabee only came up once, and in passing. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. A spokesman for Intel said there would be an update on Larrabee at IDF, but declined to give details.

Jim McGregor, chief technology analyst for In-Stat, said he believes Larrabee is indeed delayed. "Their whole idea was they were going to change the GPU compute model. It took them two years longer to make a flash part than expected, and that was just a memory component. Any time you try to do something new in silicon, it's just not easy," he told InternetNews.com.

"The fun part of IDF is not what they talk about but what they don't talk about, like Ultra Wideband. That's when you know they dropped it. I don't think they've dropped Larrabee yet but they are backing off on it," he added.

There better be a strong showing, Brookwood said. "This IDF will be very crucial in terms of how people perceive Larrabee because the expectation earlier this year was it would be something pretty ripe for getting launched late in the year or early 2010. If Larrabee does not have a big presence at IDF, those of us who want to read tea leaves will see a lot of negative leaves," he said.

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