Sadly for nVidia, Microsoft was not the best partner and failed to not only position the ZuneHD properly to fight Apple’s iPod, but also failed to market it. Within a few months the new ZuneHD was almost forgotten. However nVidia was still hard at work on Tegra and had a solid roadmap for the future. The next time we saw Tegra was during CES when we saw the first “superphones” and a new line of tablets from Asus and others.
Over the next couple of years we continued to see Tegra find homes in tablets and more media centric devices, but the sight of them in smartphones dwindled until it became nonexistent. Now we are hearing that nVidia could be dropping phones and tablets all together and pushing their Tegra SoCs directly into portable gaming products and the automotive industry.
Although based on marketing trends this is not all that surprising (after all, if you are not getting the design wins, why bother) it is interesting to hear the reasoning. According to statements by Huang, the main reason for this is price. Companies like Mediatek are already moving in on companies like Broadcom, Qualcomm and others simply because they can push out solid products at a lower price.
Huang also admits that nVidia’s first attempts to include 4G in their Tegra SoC was a bust. This came as a surprise to them, but also turned out to be beneficial for the future. nVidia is a graphics oriented company and by focusing their skills there (with regards to Tegra) they can possibly make great strides into the burgeoning market for portable gaming products. This is a space that both AMD and Intel are not quite ready for yet simply due to power and, of course, price per unit. Alternatively nVidia has made some great strides in the automotive market, but there they face a little more competition as the price and power curves are very different.
So while we might see the death of Tegra in the phone and tablet space, nVidia’s SoC could live on. At least we hope it will. From the beginning this was an ambitious project with just as much risk as there was chance for reward.
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