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Intel reaches definitive agreement to purchase physics software developer Havok

Intel has announced it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase software developer Havok, Inc. Havok provides various software development tools to digital animation and game developers and is one of the largest providers for software physics.

“Havok is a proven leader in physics technology for gaming and digital content, and will become a key element of Intel’s visual computing and graphics efforts,” said Renee J. James, Intel vice president and general manager of Software and Solutions Group.

“This is a great fit for Havok products, customers and employees,” remarked Havok CEO David O’Meara. “Intel’s scale of technology investment and customer reach enable Havok with opportunities to grow more quickly into new market segments with new products than we could have done organically. We believe the winning combination is Havok’s technology and customer know-how with Intel’s scale. I am excited to be part of this next phase of Havok’s growth.”

A recent trend is to offload physics processing to either a GPU or dedicated physics processor. So far, though, Ageia, ATI, and NVIDIA have not made much headway in the physics market.

Both NVIDIA and ATI have previewed CrossFire and SLI Physics, however, neither company has delivered any actual physics hardware yet. It’s pretty interesting to note that both ATI and NVIDIA’s physics solutions rely on Havok FX. However, it is unlikely that Intel’s acquisition of Havok will affect Havok’s partnership with either AMD or NVIDIA.    

“Havok will operate its business as usual, which will allow them to continue developing products that are offered across all platforms in the industry,” said Renee J. James regarding the future of Havok.

Essentially, Havok will operate as a subsidiary of Intel and will continue to operate as an independent business. This reinforces the belief that current partnerships will not be affected.

Havok has partnerships with many of the largest names in the gaming community such as Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, NVIDIA, and AMD. Havok has provided software physics for games like Halo 3, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Half Life 2 and Lost Planet: Extreme Condition.

In addition to providing software that adds physics realism to games, Havok also provides physics for professional software such as Autodesk’s 3DS Studio Max 9

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By InternetGeek on 9/16/2007 4:21:51 AM , Rating: 2
So how long until Intel Processors include Physics SIMD Extensions?

By Freddo on 9/16/2007 4:33:04 AM , Rating: 2
That's what I'm wondering too. I've always felt that would be a better route to go than physics cards or using graphic cards for it.

Of course, if it happens, then I hope AMD manage to give support to their CPUs as soon as possible as it could be a major sales argument among PC enthusiasts, while the various versions of SSE never really mattered much. It's not until now that games starts to require SSE and SSE2.

By StevoLincolnite on 9/16/2007 8:16:44 AM , Rating: 1
SSE is an Evolution of the MMX instruction set.
SSE was originally launched with the Pentium 3 Katmai Processors. (The processor line straight after the Pentium 2 chips).
Games like Decent 3D and Quake 3 arena were among the first to support SSE.
SSE 2 was first launched with the Pentium 4 Willamate.
And games have been supporting that instruction set for quite some time.

By Freddo on 9/16/2007 3:42:56 PM , Rating: 2
I know what SSE and MMX are. But supporting something and require something are two very different things.

The first game I know that require SSE2 is Colin McRae Dirt which was released earlier this summer.

By StevoLincolnite on 9/17/2007 7:08:37 AM , Rating: 1
Thats SSE 2, not SSE though?
Eh it was late (4am) when I wrote my last comment, and missed the "Required".

By Dactyl on 9/16/2007 7:43:07 AM , Rating: 2
Probably at the same time as Intel includes special ray-tracing speed-up instructions.

By RW on 9/16/2007 3:50:17 PM , Rating: 1
That means no more physics for AMD CPUs

By Operandi on 9/16/2007 7:59:40 PM , Rating: 4
Unless Havok and/or Intel wants to be taken to court they will continue to support AMD GPUs and CPUs.

By jak3676 on 9/16/2007 10:54:46 PM , Rating: 2
Sure it will continue to work, but for some unknown reason the compiler won't be as optimal as it used to be for AMD/ATI.

By InternetGeek on 9/16/2007 11:33:54 PM , Rating: 2
I think this has been discussed before. It's not like Intel makes AMD processors run slower on their compilers. Intel's compiler simply doesn't optimize its code for AMD processors, meaning, it doesn't take advantage of AMD's particular implementation to perform certain operations or sucessions of them. Which is something it does for Intel processors.

I don't think Intel wouldn't mind including AMD-oriented optimizations if AMD provided them. But AMD might not be too keen of doing that in fear of spilling any strategic bit of information to Intel.

In the other hand, AMD has access to Intel's bits that can be obtained from any particular Intel-oriented optimization given that anyone can download Intel's compiler from their website for free.

By stonemetal on 9/16/2007 11:50:41 PM , Rating: 2
Yes actually they do. Say you compile some code with the intel compiler it generates several code paths for new processors that support some version of sse and another for older processors that don't. Code generated by intel will check to see if you are running an intel chip not just a chip that will support sse before deciding to use the sse optomized code path If your non intel chip properly reports the supports sse bit intel's compiler will not allow it to run sse code.

By Justin Case on 9/17/2007 1:24:36 AM , Rating: 2
What kind of "strategic information" would AMD be giving Intel that Intel doesn't already have? You think Intel can't reverse-engineer AMD's CPUs (or vice-versa)? They already share a lot of information (about current CPUs, not future ones, of course), and a lot of the stuff is covered by patents so they wouldn't be allowed to copy it anyway.

I'm sure Intel's compiler coding team will gladly include AMD optimizations... about one day before they're fired. ;)

Intel is a business. If they can optimize for their chips while "unoptimizing" for the competition, you can be sure that's what they'll do (in fact, they already do it; changing the CPU manufacturer id string on an AMD CPU to report "genuineintel" makes some code run faster - not a huge difference, though; the last thing Intel wants is another anti-trust lawsuit).

AMD has a simple way to answer: deliver a compiler of their own, or work with 3rd party developers to optimize for their platform (which they already do - including open-source compilers, so there goes your theory about Intel "not having access to the information").

Compiler and CPU are two sides of the same coin (something Intel learned the hard way with the Itanium).

By melgross on 9/17/2007 12:21:53 AM , Rating: 2
That depends on what the contracts say. Many say that either party can refuse to re-enter negotiations after the contract period is over.

If that happens, Intel might not be obliged to continue to supply this to them. AMD could sue, but it doesn't mean they would win.

On the other hand, now that Intel owns the company, AMD might feel too open to Intel if they continue using the code. They may want to develop their own.

By Samus on 9/17/2007 5:21:26 PM , Rating: 2
That's fine, ATI has their solution to Physics already cooked up. It's nVidia that has to get on the boat now.

By imperator3733 on 9/16/2007 8:56:46 PM , Rating: 2
Those would be nice

By Justin Case on 9/16/2007 9:29:42 PM , Rating: 1
Never. Or rather, they already do. But that's not the issue.

The kinds of operations involved in physics calculations aren't very different from existing SIMD instructions. The real issue is that physics, like graphics, needs massive memory bandwidth. Which Intel's current designs cannot deliver. Until Intel changes its architecture to something closer to AMD's (which should happen with the introduction of CSI), it would be pointless to add any "physics instructions", just as it would be pointless to duplicate GPU instructions on the CPU, because there simply wouldn't be enough bandwith to keep those parts of the CPU fed.

My guess is Intel's move is related to something completely different: consoles. Intel needs some competitive advantage to get back into the console business, and by buying Havok not only to they gain an edge in terms of existing physics APIs, but they also strike a blow against nVidia's "Havok FX" hardware acceleration.

ATI was rumoured to be working on a physics API of its own, but it's not clear if AMD is interested in pushing that forward at this time (they probably have other things to worry about, such as actually turning in a profit).

Havok will be highly optimized for Intel chips (and probably "highly deoptimized" for AMD chips), but given Intel's system architecture it cannot really compete with dedicated physics hardware.

So the biggest loser here is nVidia (they were the ones working on hardware acceleration for Havok). The biggest winner might turn out to be... Ageia.

By InternetGeek on 9/16/2007 11:49:53 PM , Rating: 2
Hi, I think Intel's compiler doesn't deoptimize for AMD processors. It just doesn't optimize for their particular implementation. Even though AMD's support for X86 doesn't mean they have to follow Intel's design guidelines. Just as long as whatever they do produces exactly the same result as Intel's everything is fine.

By Justin Case on 9/17/2007 1:32:20 AM , Rating: 2
I was talking about the Havok API compiler.

Anyway, Intel's C++ compiler does "unoptimize" some code for AMD CPUs. It turns off some optimizations that are perfectly compatible with the K8 and above. Simply changing the CPU manufacturer id string from "authenticamd" to "genuineintel" will make some code run faster.

If Intel deliberately made all code run slower on AMD chips, they'd be exposing themselves to another anti-trust lawsuit, so what they do is turn off some (AMD-compatible) optimizations using the pretext that "they don't know whether they're compatible or not".

Not very ethical, perhaps, but perfectly legal and "fair", IMO. It's up to AMD to deliver an optimized compiler for their chips, or help the people making VC++, gcc, etc. (which they already do, to a degree).

By ultravy on 9/17/2007 5:16:32 AM , Rating: 2
let say:AMD purchase Havok!they do the same, unoptimize Intel CPU's!turn off some optimizations using the pretext that "they don't know whether they're compatible or not"

By Justin Case on 9/17/2007 3:20:44 PM , Rating: 2
How would AMD buy Havok when Intel has just done so...?

What, exactly, is your point? That AMD would do the same? No, they wouldn't. Not because they're "nice", but because they are simply in no position to do that. You seem to be forgetting that Intel has about 80% market share. AMD has 20%. If AMD made their products (ex., ATI graphics cards) deliberately slower on Intel systems, that would only benefit nVidia.

If AMD had a bigger market share than Intel you can bet they would make the ATI driver slower on Intel systems. Welcome to the real world.

By RW on 9/17/2007 3:39:18 PM , Rating: 2
An even smarter move would be that AMD to buy AGEIA.

By darkpaw on 9/17/2007 5:13:59 PM , Rating: 2
At the rate their going, AMD won't be able to afford to buy an AGEIA card.

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