Over at Seeking Alpha, Alcaraz Research published a piece noting that NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) could profit nicely as Google Chromebook sales grow over time. However, while I like that NVIDIA is trying to proliferate its chips into as many device categories as possible, I don't think investors should expect Chromebooks to have a game-changing impact on the company's overall business.
How many Chromebooks?
Alcaraz Research noted that Gartner is forecasting that 17 million Chromebooks will be sold in 2017, which would represent significant growth from the 5.2 million units projected to be sold this year.
If we take Gartner's forecast as fact, how large is the opportunity for NVIDIA here? Well, if we assume that NVIDIA sells its Chromebook-bound Tegra chips for about $25-$30, and assuming the company gobbles up the entire market, this would mean an incremental $425 million to $510 million in FY 2017.
Not bad, right?
NVIDIA unlikely to eat the entire Chromebook pie
NVIDIA announced its first Chromebook design win in August (it was an Acer model), and Gigaom reported that Acer plans to launch another model using the company's Tegra K1 processor.
Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), however, seems to have a larger footprint here. The chip giant has said 20 Intel-based Chrome designs will be in the market during 2014.
Furthermore, the proverbial poster children of Chromebooks, the Samsung Chromebook and its successor, the Samsung Chromebook 2, have been widely regarded as one of the best-selling, if not the best-selling, models.
Samsung, of course, uses its own home-grown Exynos processors, and is unlikely to use an NVIDIA Tegra or even an Intel chip in these devices (although Samsung's component choices have surprised me in the past).
How much share can it capture?
My guess is that despite the high graphics performance packed into NVIDIA's Tegra system-on-a-chip products, Intel will be difficult to displace. It doesn't help NVIDIA's case that by virtue of Intel's sheer scale in the PC market (as well as the fact that Intel owns and operates its own chipmaking factories), it probably won't be as aggressive on pricing as Intel has been.
NVIDIA will probably win the higher-end Chromebook designs (where it can charge a premium for superior graphics performance to what can be found in Intel Atom processors), but I would expect Intel or power most mass market devices where cost is the overriding factor.
Realistically, I would expect NVIDIA to capture, perhaps, 5%-10% of the entire Chromebook processor market by 2017. This translates into an opportunity between $21.25 million and $51 million (the low end is based on 5% share at an average selling price of $25, the high end is based on 10% share at an average selling price of $30).
In other words, it's nice incremental business, but not a game changer.
It looks to me as though NVIDIA's strategy with Tegra is to pursue opportunities across a wide range of markets. This is a pretty good strategy, but it requires a lot of guesswork to get a handle on how large this business might ultimately become for NVIDIA.
I expect that the two heavy hitters for NVIDIA's Tegra business will be automotive and tablets, with opportunities like Chromebooks making up a much smaller part of the equation.
Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel and Nvidia. The Motley Fool owns shares of 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.