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Monday, June 02, 2008
Nvidia Rolls Out Tegra Chips For MIDs

Nvidia on Sunday announced a processor line-up it believes will power a new class of fast, small devices with long battery life that can surf the full Internet, play high-end games and video.

The graphics chipmaker is calling the Tegra 600 and Tegra 650 processors "computers on a chip" for highly portable, visual devices, and it is aiming squarely at a market also targeted by No. 1 chipmaker Intel.

Nvidia hopes the Tegra chips, which also include its previously announced application processor APX2500 used in smartphones and handsets, will go into a broad array of computing devices. But it's aiming first for an emerging category called mobile Internet devices, or MIDs.

Intel was among the first to start bandying about the term, and its Atom family of chips is targeted at MIDs.

Mike Rayfield, general manager of Nvidia's mobile business, said MIDs have screens of four to 12 inches in diameter and may have a touch-screen or keyboard, a connection for a game controller or a wireless high-speed Internet connection.

But super-compact notebooks, smaller even than so-called ultra-mobile personal computers (UMPCs), have already taken off. The Asus Eee PC has been a runaway success, and Intel has said it would not be surprised to see sales of what it calls Netbook PCs such as the Eee PC and others top 50 million by 2011.

Tegra chips have as their main electronic brain an ARM 11 central processing unit core, a graphics processing unit, a media processor, system memory and peripherals in one ultra-low power-consuming chip smaller than a dime.

Taiwanese gadget makers are expected to showcase devices based on the Tegra chips at Computex trade show this week.

Prices for MIDs with Tegra would range from $200 to $250 and be on store shelves by the holiday shopping season.

Nvidia's push with Tegra and Intel's own efforts with Atom foreshadow a battle between two types of chip architectures for dominance in the tiny-but-powerful computing market.

The Atom chip family uses its x86 architecture, while ARM Holdings Plc processors have their own. Intel claims ARM chips grew up out of the communications and cell-phone markets, insisting its x86 architecture is better suited for computing applications such as gaming and Web browsing.

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