nVidia to Unveil First Tegra Netbook Licensees

Graphics chip giant nVidia will introduce a raft of OEM mobile Internet devices (MIDs) at the giant Computex show in Taiwan this week, the first customers to sign on for its tiny Tegra processor.

Tegra is a system-on-a-chip design that includes an ARM processor with nVidia’s GeForce 9400M graphics processor as well as other controllers, like network and memory and I/O controllers. All of this is squeezed onto a chip the size of a penny.

At the show, nVidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) will have a handful of hardware partners – most notably Foxconn, which manufacturers the iPhone for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) – to show off MIDs running a special version of Windows CE, plus dozens of wireless carriers from around the world. Wireless carriers don’t usually show up at Computex, since it’s a hardware show.

“Computex isn’t a show where wireless carriers would go, and I got 100 footing the bill to fly in,” Michael Rayfield, general manager of nVidia’s mobile business unit, bragged to InternetNews.com. “I’ve got my customers and customer’s customers coming in. We’ll have 100 reps from telcos coming in from around the world to do matchmaking.”

The Tegra-powered MIDs will run Windows CE and next year, Android. The devices will also support something not seen on the iPhone: Adobe Flash and 720 HDTV video output.

The Flash debate

It’s not like nVidia needs another excuse to pick a fight with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC). “I’m also putting to rest all the noise Intel has put out that you need x86 to use Flash,” he said. Not only will Tegra play Flash, it will do so at under one watt of power.

He also took a swipe at Intel over its claims low-power devices can’t properly play back high definition video. Last month during its analyst meeting, Sean Maloney, Intel’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, played a demo on a netbook and notebook, showing the netbook’s video performance to be pitiful.

“That was really funny. I’ll show 1080p video on a part running under one watt,” replied Rayfield.

He added “People that have bought netbooks today, almost to a tee, have been dissatisfied to one degree or another. I think on the low end, these Tegra-based systems that will go out through telcos will satisfy people who want a low-end device and have a great experience and not have to compromise on what you want to do.”

Rayfield said he has carriers from around the world interested, with the greatest interest in Central and South America and other parts of the emerging world. They see it as a way to get people on the Web. The more developed countries, such as the U.S., find the MIDs to be another way to get a device in people’s hands.

Some carriers have launch dates by around Thanksgiving. They will be announced as a carrier-branded device built by the OEMs like Foxconn, which is how a lot of cell phones are made and sold.

Rayfield figures the price will be between $100 and $200, but carrier-subsidized prices will range from free to $100 with a multi-year contract.

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