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

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.

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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.

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

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56 comments
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  • 7-inch tablets are useless

    I had an Ideapad A1 and sold it on Craig's List. You can't type on it except hunt-and-peck. You have to scroll documents back and forth to read them. Web pages render too small or you have to scroll back and forth. Useless.
    bmeacham98@...
    • Just the opposite

      I would argue the iPad is next to useless because it's so darned huge.
      x I'm tc
    • I disagree...

      I prefer the 7 inch format because it's highly functional and much more portable. I have no problems reading web pages and I don't have to "scroll back and forth" to use them. I have no problems typing on a 7 inch tablet using both thumbs; it works quite well, much better than a 10 inch tablet. Plus, the weight of a 7 inch tablet (depending on make and model) can be quite a bit less than 10 inch tablets which makes them easier to use for long periods.

      The bottom line, whether one is better than the other is completely a matter of opinion.
      kb5ynf
  • Will need more than just specs and price as Amazon has proven....

    Or supposedly proven, we still don't have clear sales number on the Fire yet, and I don't see anyone with Kindle Fires like I do iPads. But they've clearly done better than any other competing tablet maker, probably combined. Plus there's plenty of cheap $199 Android tablets in the market today that's not selling, no need to wait to see how this will play out with this new chip.

    What about screen size? Highly doubt Nvidia is discussing a 10" screen tablets that cost $199. More likely they will continue to throw out 7" devices to compete against the the iPad's 10" (9.7"). Only in the tablet market do we put a smaller screen device against a larger screen device. We don't put Netbooks up against Laptops so why continue to do so with tablets?
    dave95.
    • Well, Just By What I've Seen...

      At this point I've seen many more Kindle Fires in people's hands than iPads. I've actually seen more Nook Colors than iPads. Of course, that doesn't mean that the Kindle Fire has sold better than the iPad nationwide. You can't really tell much just by what you've seen.

      I don't know about this particular move from Nvidia being critical, but I suspect we'll see the tablet market continue to diversify as people become more familiar with Android tablets and possibly with the advent of Windows RT based tablets (I'm not sure how they'll do at this point).
      CFWhitman
    • I see more Kindle Fires than iPads

      But I ride the bus. The iPad is literally laughable on a bus. I watch with great amusement as people try to do things like turn the page on their eBook while holding on to a rail above their head with the other hand.

      The nose works well, actually.

      The biggest problem with the iPad is that it is huge. The Fire is a much more fit-for-purpose size.
      x I'm tc
      • Best line...

        ..."The nose works well, actually."

        Thank you for that :) Of all the comments I've ever read on ZDnet, that might be the best line of them all!

        And it has left me with a mighty funny visual in my head of a Pinocchio-sized nose being used.
        ikissfutebol
      • I see the next big iPad accessory...

        NEW!!
        FROM RONCO!
        THE iNOSE!!!!
        How many times have we all found ourselves in this predicament? Youre holding your iPad in one hand and a bag of groceries in the other and need to flip the page on your iPad. You try and try but the result?? Spilled groceries... or worse! But thanks to modern science this never need happen again. Introducing the iNose!!
        Just attach this easy and stylish 8" nose extension and never again have to let go of anything! The iNose the perfect way to control your iPad with simple head gestures. Perfect for reading on the bus. Walking your dog in the park? Now you don't have to worry about setting down the leash. Keep holding hands with that "significant other!" The iNose comes in a variety of stylish and festive colors and if you act in the next 10 minutes we'll include a second iNose absolutely FREE!! (just pay shipping and handling)
        The iNose!! For when you absolutely need to websurf one handed!!
        Scubajrr
      • re: I see the next big iPad accessory....

        @Scubajrr: Even better would be the iMind. Use your mind to tell the iPad what to do. Version 1 will require electrodes to be attached from the iPad to your head. iMind 2 will use wireless technologies instead of the wires but will have some interference issues with the WiFi on the iPad itself. Then the "new iMind" [what some ananlysts thought they would be called the "iMind 3" or "iMind EX"] came out where Apple got permission from the US military to use an unsed wireless spectrum to transmit the wirless part [as compensation, Apple gave them freee iMind upgrades for life]. Only problem with iMind is that it needed iTunes to be installed. Software upgrades had to be purchased.
        Gisabun
      • @Scubajrr

        I wasn't thinking about putting it on your nose when I read "websurf one handed"...

        lol.
        beaverusiv
    • Hard to determine

      Hard to determine popularity of a product by whether or not you see one in public. Surveys show that a great percentage of 'mobile' iPads/tablets never leave the house. Besides, my HP Touchpad in a iPad1 case looks nearly exactly like an iPad. Anyone farther than 3 feet away can't tell the difference.
      mstrsfty
      • Very true...

        A large percentage of iPads are used mainly in the house but yet I see more using it outside the house than I do Kindles (all of the Kindles). And Kindle Fire we keep hearing are better for on-the-go use than iPads. I am in a college town and I see students studying in cafe's everyday with their iPads, together with keyboard case/stand.

        I agree how many one sees in public shouldn't be the sole determination of their popularity but we all know the iPad is dominating the market, no secrete there. At close to 70% market share, compared to the Fire's 14%? One is much more likely to see someone using an iPad than Kindle Fire.
        dave95.
    • Errr....

      Some dolts were comparing netbooks to laptops a few years back. :-)
      Gisabun
  • Hardware answers for everything!

    Hello, it's 1999 calling: it wants it's performance solution model back.
    ramatsu
  • They develop the hardware and specs. . .

    . . . and the OEMs will likely come. And not only for Android, but perhaps for other OS options, such as a flavor of that Canonical Ubuntu Linux aimed at smartphone OEMs - it shouldn't be difficult to scale that to laptops.
    Joannmp
  • Cheap Tablets

    Most of the industry except Apple and Amazon are setting out to build cheap hardware without the back-end to support them. Apple has iTunes, iCloud, etc. Amazon has their cloud infrastructure and online retaile presence. Everyone else is hoping to tie into Google and get the back-end for free - and thereby give the profits over to Google.

    These cheap, commodity suppliers are just racing to the bottom without bringing the world any significant new innovations. What's the point?
    z2217
    • Well, there is the Nook

      Color and the Nook Tablet. Both are solid tablets and perform well with in the limits of their respective Android versions. They also have their own back-end support through the nook store.
      house63
    • Doesn't last forever

      My nephew bought iPad1 and now tells me that he needs a newer model. After only two years and numerous OS updates, the thing is aggravatingly slow. And he is an Apple fanboy. Buys everything Apple now. That innovation comes at a price.

      As for back end support. I have an HP Touchpad. I don't care where my music comes from, I can play it on the Touchpad. My video's are ripped from DVD. I don't need to buy them from one source. I still find it hard to get my video files through iTunes to my Touch. ITunes hates files from outside sources. My next step is installing ICS and running Android apps. Not everyone needs to be locked into one companies back end support.
      mstrsfty
      • That's funny.

        My video's are ripped from DVDs. My music comes from many sources. And I play them on my iPad, imported through iTunes.

        Would you like some help?
        msalzberg
      • One source?

        Amazon, eMusic, Walmart Music, Rhapsody, all sells DRM-free MP3s that iTunes can read/play, since inception. One can even use Google Music Apps or Google Web app store instead of iTunes Store, if they so choose.
        dave95.