| SAN FRANCISCO, June 1
SAN FRANCISCO, June 1 Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) on
Sunday announced a processor line-up it believes will power a
new class of fast, small devices with long battery life that
can surf the full Internet, play high-end games and display
The graphics chipmaker is calling the Tegra CSX 600 and
Tegra CSX 650 processors 'computers on a chip' for highly
portable, visual devices, and it is aiming squarely at a market
also targeted by number-one chipmaker Intel Corp (INTC.O).
Nvidia hopes the Tegra chips, which also include its
previously announced application processor APX2500 used in
smartphones and handsets, will go into a broad array of
computing devices. But it's aiming first for an emerging
category called mobile Internet devices, or MIDs.
Intel was among the first to start bandying about the term,
and its Atom family of chips is targeted at MIDs. But Intel and
Nvidia both say people are still unsure exactly what a MID is.
Nvidia says it's more than a dumbed-down notebook PC or
super-portable notebook with keyboards suited more for the
hands of Smurfs than humans.
Mike Rayfield, general manager of Nvidia's mobile business,
said MIDs have screens of four to 12 inches in diameter and may
have a touch-screen or keyboard, a connection for a game
controller or a wireless high-speed Internet connection.
"The systems now look more like dehydrated notebook
computers," Rayfield said.
But super-compact notebooks, smaller even than so-called
ultramobile personal computers (UMPCs), have already taken off.
The Asus Eee PC has been a runaway success, and Intel has said
it wouldn't be surprised to see sales of what it calls Netbook
PCs such as the Eee PC and others top 50 million by 2011.
Tegra chips have as their main electronic brain an ARM 11
central processing unit core, a graphics processing unit, a
media processor, system memory and peripherals in one ultra-low
power-consuming chip smaller than a dime, Rayfield said.
Rayfield said that while customers are lining up to use the
chips in gizmos they are designing, they are not yet willing to
disclose their plans. But at a major trade show this week
called Computex, he said he wouldn't be surprised to see
Taiwanese gadget makers and others let slip a few details.
"By the end of the week, we'll see people talking about the
fact that they're designing products around this technology,"
Rayfield said. "All the initial products will come out of
Taiwan; they're the fastest to market."
He said prices for MIDs with Tegra would range from $200 to
$250 and be on store shelves by the holiday shopping season.
"If you're looking for performance and good graphics
capabilities and the ability of this thing to play HD video and
the like, that's pretty cool stuff," said Insight 64 analyst
Nvidia's push with Tegra and Intel's own efforts with Atom
foreshadow a battle between two types of chip architectures for
dominance in the nascent tiny-but-powerful computing market.
The Atom chip family uses its x86 architecture, while ARM
Holdings Plc ARM.L processors have their own. Intel claims
ARM chips grew up out of the communications and cell-phone
markets, insisting its x86 architecture is better suited for
computing applications such as gaming and Web browsing.
Not so, says Nvidia's Rayfield.
"ARM is coming from a position of having built the best
performance-per-milliwatt devices for the last 10 years or
more," he said. "I'm very comfortable that it's a battle being
fought on their turf."
Insight 64's Brookwood said of the x86-versus-ARM battle:
"It'll be interesting to watch how it plays out."
(Editing by Braden Reddall)