NVIDIA Tegra "Grey" arriving this year with 4G radios inside, Samsung now a competitor, not customer
Last summer NVIDIA splurged to buy Icera, the wireless radio maker for $367 million, with the intention to make its mobile Tegra silicon a true system-on-a-chip offering, complete with the baseband radios inside, Qualcomm Snapdragon-style.
Nothing has been heard on that front since then, but now on the conference call presentation for Q4 yesterday, NVIDIA's CEO threw some light on the matter. NVIDIA saw its profit slump 32% due to the Thailand flooding that are affecting the PC industry, and the mobile industry utilizing less Tegra chips than expected, warning that it will sell less than $1 billion worth of Tegras this year, which was the previous target.
Now NVIDIA lays hopes on an upcoming Tegra "Grey" line of chipsets, which will integrate 3G and 4G baseband radios, together with the usual multicore CPUs, GPUs and the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS trifecta. The first "Grey"-ed devices are expected to ship by the end of the year, making NVIDIA a formidable competitor to Qualcomm. NVIDIA might not have the most powerful or efficient mobile processors, and probably won't have the most polished baseband radios intitially, but it's been first to market with dual-core and now quad-core devices. Sometimes that's all it takes, so providing the baseband radios inside as well might tip the scales for mobile manufacturers in its favor.
As for the relationship with Samsung, NVIDIA's CEO Huang said that it has turned from a customer into a competitor, producing its own Exynos mobile chips successfully and outfitting most of its own devices with them: "It's a changing world. Samsung is now a direct competitor to us. They've been building processors for Apple for some time. ... And surely they've learned quite a bit and they're applying what they've learned for their own phones," said Huang. It will be interesting to see whether Samsung will follow the same path and buy one of its LTE chip suppliers, or develop its own to match with Exynos.