At the moment, Lucid's Virtu software is the only way to enjoy Sandy Bridge's video-encoding logic in systems running discrete graphics cards. Licensing the software will reportedly cost motherboard makers $5-10 per board, and Intel has already signed on. Other motherboard makers may hold off on following in Intel's footsteps, though. Taiwanese motherboard makers have traditionally been loathe to adding pricey options to their products, and they could have a free alternative to Virtu before long.
SemiAccurate is reporting that AMD and Nvidia are working separately on Virtu-like software of their own. According to the site, the fruits of these efforts will be offered free of charge and could be available in the next few months. The work Nvidia has done on its Optimus graphics switching tech for notebooks should give the green team a head start. That said, AMD has the potential to create an even more robust solution that offers tight integration with its own Fusion APUs.
Intel's Z68 chipset is expected to launch at Computex in less than two months. Rumors had been swirling that the chipset itself would enable QuickSync video to be used in conjunction with discrete graphic cards, but the fact that Intel is licensing Virtu for its Z68 board suggests that's not the case. Rather than being shown up by an Intel board, mobo makers could elect to cough up Virtu licensing fees for their initial Z68 offerings if AMD and Nvidia don't get their act together in time. Virtu's long-term prospects appear to be dubious, though.