Nvidia touts quad-core chip for Android, Windows 8

During company's earnings call, CEO says its upcoming quad-core chip for smartphones, tablets, and laptops will actually be more power efficient than its current dual-core Tegra 2 processor.

Nvidia's CEO boasted about the power frugality of an upcoming quad-core chip, as the company reported better-than-expected earnings today.

The graphics chip supplier swung to better-than-expected earnings in the fiscal second quarter ended July 31, buttressed by revenue from laptop graphics processing units used with systems built around Intel's "Sandy Bridge" processors.

Nvidia reported a profit of $151.6 million compared with a loss of $141 million in the year-earlier period. Revenue surged 25 percent to $1.02 billion. And gross margin--a critical profit indicator--jumped to 51.7 percent from 16.6 percent compared to last year. In the third quarter, revenue is expected to be up 4 percent to 6 percent from the second quarter.

Responding to an analyst's question during the earnings conference call, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said the upcoming Kal-El processor--likely the first mainstream quad-core ARM chip--will actually offer better power efficiency than the company's dual-core Tegra 2, currently used in tablets from Motorola, Samsung, Toshiba, Acer, and others. Those tablets are based on Google's Android "Honeycomb" operating system.

"Kal-El is so much better performance than Tegra 2. And so much lower power. Very few people have internalized that Kal-El is lower power in every use case compared to Tegra 2," Huang said. Kal-El is due later this year.

He also said that Nvidia has invested heavily in Android. "We've made very, very large investments in the Google operating system. And we have a great working relationship with [Google]. As soon as the next-generation Kal-El processor goes into production we can run like the wind."

And among persistent rumors that Texas Instruments is the favored chip supplier for Google's Ice Cream Sandwich operating system--the version of Android that follows Honeycomb and Gingerbread--Huang said, "I look forward to Ice Cream Sandwich and expect to be very successful with it."

But Nvidia's future is not all pegged on Android. Its quad-core chip is also targeted at Windows 8 tablets and laptops. "We're very bullish on Windows 8 for the second half of next year," he said.

Huang said Nvidia is currently in 53 phone SKUs and mentioned recent Tegra 2 design wins: the Motorola Photon 4G and Samsung Galaxy R.