Nvidia slates tablets, unless they have Tegra 2

But where are Nvidia’s design wins?

DURING THE NVIDIA earnings report yesterday, the company’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang decided it was time to have a go at tablets, well, at least tablets that weren’t built around Nvidia’s Tegra 2 SoC. He also put some of the blame for the delay of Tegra 2 tablets on Google, as Nvidia, Google and the tablet manufacturers wanted to offer products that will be competitive against the iPad at launch.

A few companies such as Samsung, ViewSonic and Archos have already launched 7-inch plus size tablets based on Android, but as we all know by now, Android 2.2 isn’t exactly ideal for tablets. Google is meant to address this in Android 2.3 which will support higher screen resolutions among many things. As such Jen-Husn decided to take a stab at Samsung’s Galaxy Tab “Look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s a tablet that uses a phone operating system on a large display. A tablet is not a large phone.”

We’re not sure about the logic here, as the Galaxy Tab is an Android device and we’ll be seeing Android on many of the Tegra 2 powered tablets that are expected to arrive early next year. Earlier Tegra devices were running Windows CE with a custom front-end, but as far as we’re aware, none of them ever made it into retail. There were also talks about a Linux variant for Tegra, but this never seemed to materialise and in then end Nvidia had to fall back on Android, an OS that the company wasn’t overly keen on supporting a just over a year ago.

By the time we’ll see the first Tegra 2 tablets, Apple’s iPad will have been on sale for nearly a year and despite Nvidia’s best efforts, it’s unlikely that Tegra 2 tablets will be able to compete on equal terms. As good as Android is and despite Jen-Hsun’s claims of Tegra 2’s superiority in terms of performance, graphics and multitasking abilities, it’s not a product from Apple. We’re by no means Apple worshippers, but for a product to succeed in the way the iPad has, you have to have a very consumer friendly device and in that sense, Android doesn’t quite compete with iOS.

We don’t doubt that at least some of Nvidia’s partners will have some measure of success with their tablet products. Notion Ink’s Adam is one of the most hyped Tegra 2 devices to date, but it doesn’t look as sleek or stylish as the iPad and despite offering a richer feature set, Apple has proven that you don’t need to make a device with everything but the kitchen sink as standard features. Some of the other Tegra 2 devices such as the one picture above from Compal which was part of Nvidia’s presentation back at Computex this year, doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence.

On the other hand, we’d much rather have a Tegra 2 tablet than any tablet we’ve seen to date based on Intel’s Atom platform. We have no doubt that Intel will continue to pursue this market space, but currently the company just doesn’t have a solution that fits. However, we’re also of the opinion that a notebook is much more useful nine times out of ten compared to a tablet and for the times we don’t need a notebook, we might as well use a smartphone. We’ll leave you with a final quite from Jen-Hsun and his thoughts about tablets “This isn’t a fad. Everybody’s building tablets because it’s just so important.”S|A

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