A threat to the iPad comes from an unlikely source: Nvidia

Summary:Nvidia's new platform based around the Tegra 3 that could see quad-core Android tablets retailing for $199.

Nvidia is preparing to shake up the tablet market with a new platform dubbed Kai.

There's no doubt that the iPad is one of the most sought after tablets currently on the market, but with a price tag starting at $499, it's out of the reach of many. At the low end of the market Amazon has set the price that competitors have to limbo under at $199 with its Kindle Fire tablet.

But there's quite a technological gulf between a $500 iPad and a $200 Kindle Fire. This is the gulf that Nvidia wants to bridge and surpass with Kai.

At the company's annual meeting of stockholders last week, Nvidia vice-president Rob Csonger unveiled plans to offer a quad-core platform based around the Tegra 3 that could see quad-core Android tablets retailing for $199.

"Our strategy on Android is simply to enable quad-core tablets running Android Ice Cream Sandwich to be developed and brought out to market at the $199 price point," said Csonger. "The way we do that is a platform we've developed called Kai. So this uses a lot of the secret sauce that's inside Tegra 3 to allow you to develop a tablet at a much lower cost, by using a lot of innovation that we've developed to reduce the power that's used by the display and use lower cost components within the tablet."

It's very likely that Kai is an internal reference design used by Nvidia. It's also possible that it could find its way into a consumer product sometime soon.

There are cheap tablets already out there, but outside of Amazon's Kindle Fire, Barnes & Noble's Nook and the Lenovo Ideapad A1, pretty much every other tablet in the sub-$200 price bracket is junk. The Kindle Fire and Nook are both powered by dual-core processors, while the A1 is single-core CPU. Even the iPad 3 is powered by a dual-core CPU, silicon which is backed up by a quad-core GPU.

A heavy duty quad-core platform that would allow tablet makers to deliver a solid product in the sub-$200 price barrier would not only put pressure on the Kindle Fire -- which currently owns over half of the Android tablet market -- but it's also likely to put pressure on Apple.

Apple has already taken steps to attempt to fend off pressure based on price by keeping the iPad 2 on sale for $399. But $400 is still $400, and for price-conscious buyers -- both consumers and enterprise -- that $200 difference could give Kai-powered tablets quite an advantage. For volume buyers, it means the difference between buying one tablet, or two.

Price could be just the leverage that Android is looking for to grab ground from the iPad.

Image source: Nvidia.


Best tablet for those who don't want an iPad

Image Gallery: Best tablet for those who don't want an iPad
Image Gallery: Charge
Image Gallery: Charge

Topics: iPad, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Processors, Tablets


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.