NVIDIA has been promising Tegra 2 smartphones and tablets in the second half of this year, but there have been rumblings of a possible delay and we were starting to wonder if they could hit their deadline. Those fears were laid to rest today when NVIDIA confirmed once again that Tegra 2 chips were still on track to be shipped to hardware partners this quarter.
The Tegra 2 is NVIDIA’s entry into the Android segment where it appears they start off with a disadvantage. Qualcomm and Texas Instruments have taken the lead in supplying smartphone processors and NVIDIA will have to fight for design wins.
On their Q2 earnings call NVIDIA painted the picture that Tegra 2 was in high demand and hardware partners were trying to “pry these things out of our hands”.
NVIDIA went on to say that Tegra 2 would be available for both Android smartphones and tablets this year, but did not say which would ship first. When pushed by an analyst over the percentage of smartphones vs tablets NVIDIA responded, “whatever devices ship, they will be amazing”.
We have seen dozens of Tegra 2 Android tablets and I’ve even played with one, but I have a feeling most tablets will be based around Android 3.0 (which has no release date and is rumored around December to February of next year).
This leads me to believe we could see a Tegra-powered smartphone first.
Earlier in the summer we reported on an article that claimed Motorola would have a 2 GHz smartphone this year and it would feature Tegra-based graphics. The next generation Tegra 250 is a complete system-on-chip solution that features a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor at speeds up to 1.0 GHz. I’m not sure if Motorola actually meant a dual-core 1 GHz processor instead of 2 GHz, but CNET confirmed the remark.
NVIDIA has already released Android 2.2 FroYo for their Tegra 250 development kit, so it’s conceivable that Motorola could already have MOTOBLUR up and running and they are just waiting on the chips from NVIDIA. This could explain the “pry these things from our hands” comment mentioned above.
Google and NVIDIA are also actively working on the Android Tegra kernel, which is up to version 2.6.35. This is newer than the Linux kernel found in Android 2.2 (2.6.32) so some are speculating this is Gingerbread.
Verizon’s leaked roadmap suggested a Droid Pro was coming this holiday season and a Motorola tablet was also in the works. Both devices could end up being Tegra 2 based, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them was running a new dual-core OMAP4 from Texas Instruments.
Whatever happens, it sounds like someone will deliver a dual-core Android smartphone this year. It might be HTC and Qualcomm, or Motorola teaming up with NVIDIA or Texas Instruments. Any combination of device would be pretty spectacular, but I really want to get my hands on a Tegra 2 product.
To get an idea of the power inside Tegra 2, check out the video from CES where NVIDIA showed it running the Unreal Engine 3. When you think about that kind of graphics on a smartphone, it actually makes the PlayStation Phone rumors from yesterday a little more believable.
Share of NVIDIA (NVDA) touched a 52-week low recently, so Tegra 2 and Android could play a major role in their turnaround.