How would you market a chip that you claim boasts features so extraordinary, they seem like superpowers? Try naming that chip after a comic-book superhero.
At last week's Computex trade show in Taiwan, NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) demonstrated a forthcoming quad-core mobile processor that it calls "Kal-El," in reference to Superman's Kryptonian birth name. To hear NVIDIA tell it, Kal-El packs a supercomputing punch in a form factor portable and energy-efficient enough for a tablet:
ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH ) must be thrilled. Why? NVIDIA is a licensee. Each architectural leap the company introduces on the ARM platform puts more pressure on MIPS Technologies (Nasdaq: MIPS ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , and Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) , all of which are vying for a greater share of the mobile market.
To be fair, Tegra only powers a small number of mobile devices at present. NVIDIA says it has shipped 10 million Tegra 2 processors so far. In the last quarter alone, 100 million smartphones were sold! But Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) also selected the chip as its reference design for the Honeycomb edition of Android. The implication? The Big G sees Tegra as the core of its tablet strategy.
So while ARM has plenty of licensees, it makes sense to keep tabs on NVIDIA's roadmap. Its plans for Tegra are as aggressive as any you'll find:
Source: Company presentation.
Notice anything? Yep, that's right. Each successive processor is named after a technologically astute superhero. "Wayne," as in Bruce Wayne -- otherwise known as Batman, who's famous for his many bat-gadgets. "Logan," the real name of the X-Men's adamantium-enhanced Wolverine. And finally "Stark," as in Tony, better known as Iron Man.
Call this nod to the comic books silly if you'd like. Call it hubris, even. Call it anything except complacent. NVIDIA wants to lead the mobile market with chips possessing powers and abilities beyond those of mere mortals. Its market share-seeking rivals had better take heed.
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