Walking into the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week, a lot of the buzz coming from mobile game developers looking for maximum performance for their titles is on Nvidia's Tegra processor architecture, which is leveraged in Motorola's Xoom tablet, the Atrix 4G smartphone and other devices that run the Android operating system.
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Apple says the A5 processor that powers the iPad 2 offers up to twice the performance as the processor under the hood of the original iPad, with up to nine times better graphics performance.
But the absence of hard specs on the iPad 2 - at least for now - leaves some developers at this week's show cold. Helping advance Tegra is Nvidia's deep roots in the game development community, long championing its hardware and APIs for use by game creators.
Nvidia has also introduced a "Tegra Zone" app for mobile gamers, to find content optimized for their smartphones and tablets. That helps developers that work with Nvidia to showcase their games away from the Android Market, which is running headlong into the same signal-to-noise ratio problem that the App Store has long suffered from: a lack of meaningful ways for the developer to differentiate their products from the competition's.
Apple also still suffers from a perception among hardcore game developers that the company doesn't take their particular type of entertainment seriously. Some developers perceive casual mainstream games like Angry Birds as getting the lion's share of Apple's attention in the App Store, while more hardcore and higher-priced games often languish outside of the purview of Apple's editorial curation.
At the recent World Mobile Congress (WMC) event in Barcelona, Spain, Nvidia demonstrated a quad-core version of its Tegra architecture sporting dramatically improved performance over its current chipset. That's not available to market yet, and Tegra 2-based devices are only now slowly trickling to market. It will take some time for handset and tablet manufacturers and software developers to catch up. But the fact remains: Nvidia, like Apple, is not sitting still, and wants to compete.
There can be very little doubt that the iPad 2 will help Apple carry forward its momentum as the dominant tablet manufacturer. But just as Android-based smartphones have begun to eclipse the iPhone, Android tablets running Tegra processors and Honeycomb are likely to bite deeply into Apple's lead.
Is 2011 the year of the iPad 2, as Steve Jobs said in his presentation on Wednesday? If the feedback of game developers at GDC is any indication, it's still too soon to tell.