NVIDIA: iPad Set Bar Too Low

Ah, NVIDIA’s CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang. This guy is usually to the point, and doesn’t sugar-coat his words, so interviews with him are generally good stuff to read. This time around, he had Intel and Apple down his sights. The iPad’s A4 processor doesn’t measure up to his company’s Tegra 2, and Intel’s Z6 Moorestown is not competitive in any way. At least, that’s what he claims.

Of course, him being the CEO of NVIDIA, he is anything but impartial in this matter. Still, his claims regarding Intel and the iPad have an element of truth in them. Regarding Intel’s entry into the smartphone business, the Z6 Moorstown, he is very dismissive. Will Intel be competitive?

“No. It’s not possible,” he claims, “You could give an elephant a diet but it’s still an elephant. And when they think about power they think reducing from 20 watts down to 5 watts down to 4 watts down to 2 watts is really good. But you and I both know that in a mobile phone you need to be in a hundred milliwatts, two hundred milliwatts. So they’re still ten times away. So that’s a big challenge for them.”

“And meanwhile Tegra 2 is already much superior to Atom from a performance perspective,” he continues, “And so now we’re already dual-core, and then next year I assume Tegra 3 comes out, and then, you know, here we are increasing performance at a lightning rate and power is incredibly low, so I think it’s going to be tough for them.”

Another recent entry into this part of the processor market is Apple’s A4 processor, currently used by the iPad but destined to come to the next-generation iPhone as well. The Apple A4 is a system-on-chip containing, among other things, a single 1Ghz Cortex-A8 core and a PowerVR SGX 535 graphics processor. It is designed by Apple and manufactured by Samsung.

In what most surely is utterly remarkable to many (cough), NVIDIA’s CEO isn’t particularly impressed with Apple’s A4. “Tegra is the world’s first dual-core processor with symmetric multi-processing, and what Nvidia’s most famous for, which is built in GPUs,” he states, “So the dual-core allows it just to be much snappier. Just look at how dual-core Atom’s going to be much faster than a single-core Atom.”

“The second thing is because so much of the tablet experience is related to tablets, visual, the whole computer is just one big piece of display,” he continues, “So it’s a visual computer in its ultimate form. A fast GPU will just help you have a much snappier experience, just everything you do from magazines to videos to games.”

The idea here is that NVIDIA’s Tegra II can do 1080p full HD as well Flash comfortably, which the iPad’s processor can’t muster. At the netbook summit today, another NVIDIA executive said that the iPad set the bar too low for tablets by not being able to do Flash and Full HD video. He showed a number of websites which didn’t work on the iPad because of its lack of Flash (like Farmville on Facebook) – with the underlying message being this: buy Tegra! Buy Tegra! Buy Tegra!

And there’s the stinger, as Engadget rightfully points out: where are those Tegra II-based devices? “That all sounds good and well, NVIDIA, but it’s time to stop talking and start showing some real Tegra 2 phones and tablets,” the gadget blog quips.

And that’s the real issue here, of course. NVIDIA might trash-talk Apple’s A4 and the iPad, but at least those are shipping products lots and lots of users are very happy with. The “NVIDIA TEGRA-POWERED PRODUCTS” sections of NVIDIA’s website have tumbleweeds rolling by.


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