Home > gadgets, linux, smartbooks, tablets, ubuntu > Nvidia Tegra3 launch imminent. Intel, you did this to yourself.

Nvidia Tegra3 launch imminent. Intel, you did this to yourself.


Reading about the likely launch of Tegra3 at Mobile World Congress 2011 and seeing this video, one cannot help wondering how big a mistake Intel made when denied Atom hardware interfaces from Nvidia some time ago. Doing that, it practically forced Nvidia to abandon mobile-x86 solutions and pour all of its resources into Tegra/ARM development.

Nvidia has recently announced its Project Denver effort which also shows how seriously the graphics company wants to transform into an all-out computer technology company shipping mobile, desktop and server processors as well not only graphics solutions.

As a result, Intel will have to face not only AMD in the desktop/server segment but a big-name ARM technologist as well. (And several smaller ones like Nufront)

Tegra3 is not well known yet, but some guesses can be made:

  • Quad-core Cortex-A9 symmetric multi processing for generic application code execution
  • Likely at least 1Ghz top, possible up to 1.5 Ghz, dynamic frequency scaling and individual core-power-off
  • Geforce 8 or 9 level graphics core, likely with high-profile 1080p playback and encoding
  • Support for Linux and Android
  • Possibly produced on a <40nm process (GlobalFoundries 28nm anyone?)

If Nvidia can produce this on the GlobalFoundries 28nm process (or similar), we can be quite certain that the new SOC will still be viable for smartphones and will be an extremely appealing solution for tablets and Motorola Atrix-like phone/netbook/tablet modular solutions.

It will make Moorestown Atoms a very-very hard sell for Intel in the mobile phone and tablet space since the computing-power advantage of Moorestown is gone and Tegra3 will be much more efficient (being an all-out ARM solution). Android-centered OEMs will most likely go with ARM anyway and if there is a big-name producer like Nvidia with a powerful solution for their premium products, they will certainly pick that up instead of the Intel gear.

And this is only the mobile space. When Project Denver from Nvidia and Nufront start selling ARM based server SOCs, Intel will have to fight a battle in the datacenter which was absolutely home-turf so far.

All of this may not have happened at all (or would have happened years later, giving Moorestown a chance) if Intel had not chosen to deny Nvidia the hardware interfaces for building Ion2. They switched a huge threat and possible cut-throat competition in every computing segment for a very short-term gain in one segment.

Was it worth it Intel?

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  1. January 21, 2011 at 15:14
  2. Dann
    January 24, 2011 at 22:25

    They had better come out with laptops with a couple of these quad-core chips thrown in them.

    Imagine being able to do 3D graphics in full power on a train or bus and still get a few hours out of it.

    Brilliant, go ARM

  3. Lucian Armasu
    May 2, 2011 at 18:58

    I like your articles. You were pretty spot on about Tegra 3 :). You should keep writing.

    I agree Moorestown chip will be a very hard sell once Tegra 3 arrives. Tegra 3 will still beat it on energy efficiency, but it will actually beat it in performance, too. That chip they are promoting for tablets and phones is only a single core 1.5 Ghz Atom.

    Intel did a much bigger mistake here than just not allowing Nvidia access to x86. The mistake is not making ARM chips themselves. ARM is a pure disruptive play against Intel’s chips, and as such it does provide a very high conflict of interest. My guess is that’s why their ARM division failed in the first place a while ago. ARM chips are much cheaper and I don’t think Intel knows how to sell such inexpensive cheaps. They think that if they start making ARM chips themselves, it will negatively affect their x86 business. which it probably will, but that’s pretty irrelevant when you consider their whole future is at stake if they fall behind the ARM competitors.

    What Intel is trying to do now with Atom is comparable to what Nokia was trying to do with Symbian for 4 years since iPhone launched. Instead of making or promoting their own modern alternative -an “equal” to iOS (perhaps Maemo at the time?)- they kept “improving” Symbian, which turned out to be a huge waste of time and money. And now, it’s too little too late to embrace another problem. What’s worst hasn’t passed for Nokia. It’s yet to come.

    Intel is doing the same. They are wasting time improving Atom when they should’ve known it would take years just to bring it to the same level of efficiency as an ARM chip, and that’s only for a single core CPU. By the time they manage that Nvidia and the others will be way past them not only in market share but in performance, too. Intel should’ve used all this time to become of the most important ARM players in the market instead. They will do it eventually, but it will be too late then to enter this market. The others will be too entrenched for Intel to change anything. I don’t think they’ll even consider it at least until 2013, when they’ll finally see that manufacturers are starting to use even Windows(8) with ARM chips such as quad core Cortex A15 chips and a very dangerous trend for Intel will be created.

  1. January 22, 2011 at 00:05

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