Nvidia CEO: Lots of Android tablets coming

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang says a lot about tablets during the company's earnings conference call. The message: a deluge of Android tablets are on the way.

Brooke Crothers
Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
3 min read

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said a flood of Android tablets are on the way and repeated that they have to be "truly remarkable" in order to compete with the iPad. And traditional notebooks may imperiled by the deluge, according to Huang.

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. Tablets are not a fad.
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. 'Tablets are not a fad.'

Nvidia reported earnings today for its most recent quarter, ending October 31. The Santa Clara, Calif., graphics chip supplier's profit slipped to $84.9 million, or 15 cents per share, from $107.6 million, or 19 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter. Earnings were up, however, from this year's previous quarter, when the company posted a loss of $141.0 million, or 25 cents per share. Revenue was down to $843.9 million from $903.2 million reported a year ago.

After the earnings conference call, I chatted with Huang on the phone. Nvidia's Tegra processor is expected to appear in a number of Android tablets, which he admitted were delayed by a "few months" because Nvidia, Google, and tablet manufacturers want to make sure they get it right out of the gate in order to compete effectively against Apple's iPad. "You can't just do another product," he said. "Look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It's a tablet that uses a phone operating system on a large display. A tablet is not a large phone."

Tablets coming out early next year are expected to use a future version of Android designed for larger screens.

Though Huang said he is sworn to secrecy until Android tablets come out and couldn't give details, he did say that upcoming tablets using its dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor "give you the benefit of higher performance and much, much better multitasking and better graphics." All of these combined can lead to a different experience than the iPad, Huang said.

"There's going to be all kinds of interesting industrial designs," he said. "And I think the high-level concept is that when you have such an incredibly low-power SOC [system-on-a-chip] then industrial design freedom really grows." He made clear during the earnings conference call that his company is working with Google on Android tablets.

Huang also touched on why a tablet design is better than a laptop for many applications. "Open your notebook. [Inside] it's got heat pipes, and fans, and heat spreaders, lots of copper. You're going to get rid of all of that," he said. Generally, this results in lighter products with longer battery life.

And what's the fate of notebooks and Netbooks? "By being able to connect a wireless keyboard and mouse--the difference between a tablet and notebook is pretty marginal," he said. "[Tablets] will be quite disruptive to notebooks and entry-level desktops," he said.

Huang also waxed eloquent about tablets during the company's earnings conference call. "Our tablet and phone business is going to ramp. And it's going to ramp hard. The amount of activity in our Tegra business is simply too great right now. Come the beginning the [next] year is when you'll see what we have been so busy working on," he said.

"This isn't a fad. Everybody's building tablets because it's just so important. Car companies are working on tablets, consumer electronics companies are working on tablets, computer companies are working on tablets, and communications companies are working on tablets. The medical industry is working on tablets," he said during the earnings conference call. "I don't remember in the history of computing [when] a singular device is being worked on by all of the industry."