Does NVIDIA's New Chip Have Superpowers?

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.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about NVIDIA's strategy using the comments box below. You can also add NVIDIA to your watchlist to get more Foolish analysis of this stock.

Speaking of superheroes, Fool contributor Tim Beyers will be seeing X-Men: First Class tonight. He is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and owned shares of Google and MIPS Technologies at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, NVIDIA, and Intel, writing puts in NVIDIA, and creating a diagonal call position in Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 06, 2011, at 12:28 PM, RRobertsmith wrote:

    cal e for nia....omg.....silicon valley?

  • Report this Comment On June 07, 2011, at 8:22 PM, rnewbie wrote:

    Only 10 millions Tegra 2 shipped so far (June 7,2010)?

    Did that include Tablets: Acer Tab500, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Asus Pad Slider, Motorola Xoom, T-Mobile G-state, Dell Streak 7, Toshiba Tablet ; and

    Smartphones: Motorola Droid x2,Atrix 4G, T-Mobile G 2x and LG Optimus?

    How about China's local brands?

    How many will be shipped next quarter, any estimate?

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