The MID market is undefined, but there is potential and a big rival-Intel.
SANTA CLARA, Calif.-When Michael Rayfield looks at the potential for
so-called MIDs or mobile Internet devices, what he sees now is a "zero
billion dollar market."
Rayfield, the general manager of Nvidia's Mobile Business division,
is being flip, but he makes a point. Right now, for all the talk of
MIDs at the 2008 Computex conference in Taiwan in early June, the
market is ill-defined. However, there is potential and Nvidia along
with big-time rival Intel are each looking to be the first to define
At Computex, Nvidia launched a new platform called Tegra,
is built around an ARM 11 CPU, a low-watt GeForce GPU (graphics
processing unit), an image processor and a high-definition video
processor. Earlier this year, Intel unveiled its Atom processor
-formally called Silverthorne-which is an x86 processor based on Intel Architecture along with a new chip set.
The two companies are now in a race to get their products into the
hands of vendors to produce the first of these MIDs by the second half
of 2008, although Rayfield believes that the real test will come in the
later half of 2009 when Intel and Nvidia revamp their offerings.
For now, Nvidia is looking at devices that cost between $199 and
$250, connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi, WiMax or 3G, and have 4-
to 12-inch displays. While many of these devices will find their way
into the consumer market, Rayfield believes that at the $200 price
range, these MIDs could find their way into the enterprise for
applications ranging from e-mail to VOIP (voice over IP).
In an interview at Nvidia's headquarters here, Rayfield-not
surprisingly-said he believes that the ARM-based Tegra platform will
offer the type of battery life needed for MIDs to be successful in the
market while supporting video, games and "light" productivity
applications such as e-mail and spreadsheets.
"If the device only works for two hours, it will remain a zero
billion market because nobody wants to plug it back into the wall after
two hours," said Rayfield.
This type of platform with the ARM processor also means that Nvidia
can move between the MID and the smart phone markets-the company
offered a its APX2500 application processor for smart phones earlier
this year-and that type of crossover could lead to an array of
interesting products that combine the best elements of both.
"It's a mart that could be worth billions and billions, and there
could also be billions of devices out there if it's done right," said
Rayfield. "If the smart phone starts to merge with the navigation
device, which then starts to merge with these mobile devices, it
Some analysts agree with that assumption and many believe that it will take Intel some time to bring the thermal envelope of its Atom processors down for use in both MIDs as well as smart phones,
such as the Apple iPhone.
However, some of the Intel processors do offer thermal envelopes of
less than one watt, while the ARM processor allows Nvidia to offer its
platform at less than one watt as well. Other industry watchers believe
that application developers will have an easier time developing code on
Intel's x86 base, which could support a full Microsoft Windows or Linux
For now, Tegra supports Windows CE and Mobile, and while Rayfield
believes it could support Linux in the future, he said he thinks most
consumers will want a Windows-based device. As for third-party
applications, Rayfield said developers can build on top of Windows or
use OpenKODE, a set of open APIs for handheld devices, to develop the