Nvidia Readies Quad-Core Tegra Chips for Mobile Devices

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said mobile devices powered by the company's quad-core chips will start hitting the market before the holiday season.

Nvidia officials say that the first mobile devices using its quad-core Tegra 3 chip should start shipping by the fourth quarter, in time for the all-important holiday season.

Nvidia first demonstrated the quad-core chip-codenamed Kal-El-at the Computex show in May. Now the company has begun shipping the chip and expects the devices to hit the market later this year.

The announcement came during a financial update given by Nvidia executives Sept. 6, during which they touted not only their traditional graphics business, but also their growing mobile computing technology. For its fiscal year 2013-which begins Jan. 30, 2012-Nvidia expects revenues of $4.7 billion to $5 billion, more than the $4.45 billion expected by analysts.

Nvidia President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang attributed the strong outlook to the rapidly growing mobile computing space.

"We see growth across our entire GPU and mobile-processor business," Huang said in a statement. "The future for computing is visual and mobile, and we are well positioned to lead in this new era."

Nvidia has been a major player in the graphics space for years. More recently, the company, using designs from ARM Holdings, has moved aggressively into the mobile chip market, and has gotten a number of design wins thanks to its Tegra line of products. The mobile chip strategy has placed it into competition with a number of other chip makers, including Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Samsung, which also rely on ARM designs.

However, Huang told the Wall Street Journal that at this point, the only real competition Nvidia has in the mobile chip space is Qualcomm.

"Aside from the two of us, there's really not too many people actively on the dance floor," he told the newspaper. "It's mostly us and Qualcomm competing for most of the slots."

Both are competing in the Android tablet and smartphone spaces, though Apple still dominates the overall tablet space with its iPad and is a significant figure in smartphones with its iPhone portfolio. Apple uses its own chips for those products.

However, during a roundtable discussion with reporters, Huang reportedly said that he expects Android-based tablets to make up 50 percent of the market by 2015, and that Nvidia's Tegra 1 or 2 chips are already installed in half of the high-end Android smartphones and 70 percent of Android tablets.

Nvidia also expects to begin leveraging the wireless baseband technology it acquired through its$367 million acquisition in May of Icera. Huang said the company will start sampling chips that integrate the technology into its Tegra products, which he said will help drive down costs.

All this will mean big business for Nvidia's mobile chip business, which officials expect will grow to $20 billion by 2015. Meanwhile, its PC GPU business will see revenues grow to $7 billion in four years.

However, Nvidia and others also must keep an eye on x86-based chip makers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, both of which are looking to muscle their way into the tablet and ultra-portable PC spaces. In addition, Intel expects to become a significant player in the smartphone market as well.

Huang appeared to dismiss the threat from Intel and AMD, saying they are too late to the market.

"If you don't have a mobile strategy, you're in deep turd," Huang reportedly said. "If you're not in mobile processors now, you're seven years too late."

Microsoft's decision to enable its upcoming Windows 8 operating system to support system-on-a-chip (SoC) architectures-particularly ARM-will give a significant boost to Nvidia's business as well as other ARM partners, he said. Right now, Windows runs solely on the x86 architecture of Intel and AMD.