* "Project Shield" marks unusual foray into consumer devices
* Attempts to bring hardcore gaming mobile
* Details closely guarded for now
By Noel Randewich
LAS VEGAS, Jan 7 Nvidia offered a sneak
preview of a hand-held gaming device, powered by its latest
"Tegra 4" processor, that it hopes will help it go up against
Sony Corp, Microsoft Corp and other device
makers in consumer gaming.
Called "Project Shield", the device - a cross between the
controller familiar to most console gamers and a small tablet
display - will be sold direct to consumers, an unusual move for
a company best known for computer graphics cards and mobile
The unveiling late on Sunday took the industry by surprise.
Nvidia offered few details beyond basic specifications.
Executives said that when it launches, it will be able to run
Google Android games now found on smartphones and tablets. It
can also stream games from PCs.
"Everything you do with your Android device just works
here," Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang told reporters in Las
Vegas ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show.
"This is the culmination of five years of work."
Nvidia is keeping a tight lid on Project Shield, with only a
handful of closely guarded prototypes circulating within the
company, a source at Nvidia told Reuters. Huang would not say
when the device -- or the Tegra 4 that powers it -- will begin
selling, or at what price.
Tablets and smartphones support limited control functions
like swiping and tapping. By integrating a controller with a
screen, Nvidia may be angling for hardcore gamers who play
shooter and other intense action games on consoles.
Developers have not yet been successful in bringing such
titles to mobile devices like the Apple iPad, analysts
"At first glance, this does seem more primed for attacking
the mobile and tablet consumer sector rather than impacting the
Microsft or Sony HD console experience," said Jesse Divnich, an
analyst at video game research firm EEDAR.
Others said Nvidia may be trying to vie for a bigger slice
of the console gaming market. Microsoft now uses graphics chips
from rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc for its Xbox, the
Apart from a growing assortment of game-capable tablets and
smartphones, Sony and Microsoft are both expected to release
next-generation versions of the PlayStation and Xbox this year.
Nvidia's new device will support the popular game digital
download service "Steam", bringing on board top-selling titles
like "Assassin's Creed" and "Battlefield 3".
"Nvidia has really been a hardware consumer-facing company
for nearly 15 years in the graphics card business," PJ McNealy,
CEO of Digital World Research, said. "It'll be a challenge to
leverage that legacy into a broader hardware business."
Beyond gaming, entertainment features like Hulu and Netflix
have become a unique selling point for Sony's PlayStation and
Microsoft's Xbox consoles.
"Nvidia is many years way from trying to penetrate that
market," Divnich said.
With PC sales suffering due to economic uncertainty and a
growing consumer preference for tablets, Nvidia has also staked
its future on leveraging its graphics expertise to make
high-performance processors for mobile devices.
The Tegra 4 chip, with four central processing cores, will
be Nvidia's first to include LTE technology for high-speed
The company has made inroads in tablets but competition from
larger rival Qualcomm has some on Wall Street concerned
the company may struggle to keep its mobile business growing
fast. Qualcomm already offers 4G technology in its chips.
Huang said Nvidia's newest Tegra boasts improved image
processing capabilities for digital cameras in phones and
tablets. Huang also said the Tegra 4 chip lets tablets load web
pages more quickly than devices using rival chips.
The previous Tegra 3 is used in Google's Nexus 7,
one of only a handful of tablets to make inroads against Apple's
iPads. The Tegra 3 chip is also used in Microsoft's
recently launched Surface tablet.
At the event, Huang also introduced a cloud product called
the Nvidia Grid, a server and software package designed to
remotely handle graphics computations for video games instead of
on consoles like the Xbox in game-players' living rooms.
He said Nvidia would sell the Nvidia Grid packages to
companies interested in hosting and streaming cloud-based video