nVidia has announced its tinyCPU, the Tegra.

nVidia licensed the ARM 11 processor and snazzied it up with a process shrink that also incorporates its graphics into it, creating an effective system on a chip well before Intel or AMD.

Getting there first probably won’t be too significant in the long run, these tinyCPUs probably won’t hit their stride until process technology hits the 32nm or even 22nm node.

What is significant is that nVidia has announced it is ready to bet the company and take Intel on.

They may succeed, they may fail, but they have no real choice in the matter. TinyPCs/tinyCPUs are the new frontier of computing, and if nVidia doesn’t strike out on its own, it’s not going to be there. Not like Intel nor AMD will license nVidia technology for their SOCs.

It’s important to understand the numbers at stake. Today, roughly three hundred million PCs are made a year. You can have a very successful product line putting your product in tens of millions of those PCs; Intel puts its CPU in somewhat more than a coupld hundred million of those PCs.

In contrast, just the mobile phone business sells over a billion phones a year, and that number is still heading up. But that’s only part of the eventual market. Wherever it makes plenty, any, or even no sense to put one of these tinyCPUs, that’s where they’ll go over the course of the next decade. I doubt you’ll be able to blog from your can opener, but I bet you’ll get the chance be able to watch Internet video from your microwave.

In such a world, unit sales will measure in the hundreds of millions even for also-ran products. Yes, the companies making them will get less money for them, but they’ll also cost a lot less to make.

Eventually, the world will be cranking out more tinyCPUs a year than it has people. This is a business no one serious in the chip business can fail to ignore. So nVidia is jumping in early, which brings up our next point:

Where’s AMD?

I don’t want to be rude or anything, but where are they? After all, this is a company that has as one of its slogans x86 Everywhere Whatever’s been said about Fusion, it doesn’t sound like a tinyCPU.

You also have to wonder how nVidia somehow managed to put together a miniFusion chip together pretty quickly while it’s taking AMD years and years. Sorry, but “First to announce, last to deliver” seems to be a fitting description.

I realize they have more immediate needs, but it looks pretty odd that AMD is trying to sell what used to be the old ATI Consumer Electronics Division while Intel and nVidia are readying themselves to get into it.

Oh well. At least we know who’ll compete against Intel if AMD fails.


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