Qualcomm, Nvidia Unveil New Powerful Chips at CES

Both companies, which are strong in the mobile device space, are looking to expand into other connected systems, from cars to TVs.

Qualcomm and Nvidia are looking to expand their mobile chip technologies beyond smartphones and tablets and into cars, smart TVs and other systems on the list of increasingly connected and intelligent systems.

Both vendors unveiled new chips at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 that build off their capabilities in mobile devices to make moves in other systems. Neither company is looking to move out of smartphones and tablets, but like other vendors in the tech world, they see opportunities in the growing Internet of things, where massive numbers of systems—from appliances to cars to surveillance cameras—are connected and equipped with intelligence.

In Qualcomm's case, officials are following up the release last year of the Snapdragon 800 chips for mobile devices with the Snapdragon 802, introduced at the event in Las Vegas Jan. 6. The Snapdragon 802 system-on-a-chip (SoC) is aimed at the growing numbers of smart TVs, smart set-top boxes and smart digital media adapters.

The chip includes features developed for TVs, including broadcast, analog and digital I/O interfaces and a custom Android Software Framework based on the latest Android 4.4 Kit Kat release, enabling system makers to create solutions optimized for the Google mobile operating system in smart consumer devices. Qualcomm officials said their new SoC will enable users to run more than one application at a time, such as playing a game online while participating in a video conference or streaming a movie.

"In addition to offering our expertise in the smartphone space, we also are introducing capabilities specific to the smart TV space, which enable our customers to redefine the smart TV category by combining the best of both TV and smartphone experiences," Murthy Renduchintala, executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, said in a statement. "Combining the efficient integration of our Snapdragon processing and connectivity components with Qualcomm Technologies' demonstrated expertise in Android will enable the ultimate home entertainment experience with compelling new ways to watch, play and interact."

The Snapdragon 802 includes a quad-core Krait 1.8GHz CPU and an Adreno 330 graphics chip. The company will begin sampling the SoC early this year and officials said they expect the technology to begin showing up in systems later in 2014.

At the same time, Qualcomm also introduced the Snapdragon 602A, an applications processor also built on the quad-core Krait CPU and Adreno 320 GPU that is aimed at car infotainment systems.

On Jan. 5, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveiled the 192-core Tegra K1 processor, which is based on the Kepler graphics architecture that is the basis for the company's GPUs and the company's GeForce graphics cards. To be sure, the Tegra K1 is a powerful mobile chip that the company expects to find its way into smartphones and tablets, and will help the mobile devices compete with consoles in the booming gaming market. The chip will enable users to play any games on their mobile devices with the same capabilities found on the consoles, according to the company. During an event at the show, Huang demonstrated the Unreal Engine 4 game by Epic Games running on the Tegra K1.