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  (Source: AnandTech)
HTC's recovery should get a boost from prestigious contract; NVIDIA scores a much-needed win over Qualcomm

HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) released its first -- and only second so far -- branded tablet in May 2011, the 7-inch HTC Flyer.  At the time it was soon to become America's top smartphone seller.   The tablet packed decent hardware, but the weak state of Google Inc.'s  (GOOG) Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" and Android 3.2 "Honeycomb", when it came to tablet form factors, lessened the device's appeal  

I. At Long Last HTC is Poised for Tablet Success

HTC tried to fire things up in Sept. 2011 with the 10-inch HTC Jetstream, the first LTE-enabled tablet on AT&T, Inc.'s (T) network in the U.S.  In Oct. 2012, the pint-sized Flyer joined its unreleased brethren in the nether lands, when HTC bailed on it amid plunging financials.  No longer the darling of the American market, HTC's slide would be long and painful.
HTC Flyer
The short-lived 7-inch HTC Flyer

The Taiwanese device-maker has been working desparately to turn things around.  Occasionally it considered a return to tablet sales, but it remained hesitant lest another Flyer-like Flop hastened its descent.  The sad irony was that its tablets perhapps came too soon to the Android scene and fled too early.  While Gingerbread and Honeycomb struggled on tablets, Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" received rave reviews and started the sales surge that eventually led Android tablets to pass Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad in sales.

HTC Jetstream
The LTE-enabled HTC Jetstream

But fate finally appears to be growing more kind, as it appears HTC is at last turning the corner.  It has a line of appealing budget devices -- the Desire smartphone family.  And its flagship device, the HTC One M8 has been a modest sales success.

And if NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) recent filing with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is accurate, then it could be preparing to take yet another step, forward, scoring a blockbuster tablet contract from Google Inc. (GOOG).

The filing reads:

The HTC Nexus 9, expected in the third quarter of 2014, is also expected to use the Tegra K1.

The filing -- first noted by The Bright Side of the News has been yanked by NVIDIA and deleted from Google's cache.  Fortunately, Droid Life screenshotted the PDF, proving you can't keep a good thing secret for long.

NVIDIA Tegra K1
[Image Source: Droid Life]

Suffice it to say, a launch later this month appears nigh.

II. Rocky Mountain High

With the new Nexus tablet that HTC is poised to become the third OEM to score a Nexus tablet contract, following ASUSTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357) (who made the original 2012 Nexus 7 and 2013 Nexus 7 refresh) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935Nov. 2012 Nexus 10.  

The tablet shouldn't be a strong money-maker for HTC; Nexus devices are often sold nearly at-cost to promote early adoption of new kinds of hardware and two promote new builds of Android.  But the upside is that Nexus tablets are typically hot sellers.  Selling a Nexus tablet for Google is a ticket to an OEM raising its prestige in the tablet market.

By the same token, the contract is a coup for NVIDIA, who has struggled in the mobile applications processor market, amid the dominance of Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM).  NVIDIA's Tegra 3 powered the first-generation Nexus 7 and saw modest adoption in various Android tablets/smartphones, but it always trailed Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 in market penetration.

But with the Snapdragon 200/400/600/800 family, released in Jan. 2013, things truly went south for NVIDIA.  Tegra 4 saw little adoption and fell glaringly behind 2013's Snapdragons in power performance. To add insult to injury, ASUSTek swapped the Tegra 3 for a Snapdragon S4 Pro (APQ8064) in its second-generation Nexus 7 design.  (The Nexus 10 had used a proprietary Exynos 5250 chip from Samsung.)

The Tegra K1 onboard the Nexus 9 is expected to a second more-advanced version of the chip which began sampling in January.  This newer model looks to replace the 2.2 GHz quartet of 32-bit Cortex-A15 cores from ARM Holdings plc (LON:ARM) with newer 64-bit "Denver" ARM CPU cores NVIDIA has been designing in house.  In an Apple-like turn, NVIDIA's new dual-core Denver-powered SoC @ 2.5 GHz is expected to best its previous quad-core model in performance.

Tegra K1
[Image Source: AnandTech]

The new Denver cores, which use the ARMv8A instruction set, took NVIDIA five years to develop, but they are rumored to be intimidating in performance.  They use an in-order architecture -- going against the flow at a time when most (including Apple are opting for out-of-order designs).  Like Apple, though, Denver has a wide pipeline to maximize instruction throughput and parallelism on a single core.

Apple's Cyclone core (which was inside the A7 system-on-a-chip (SoC)) was believed to be three wide.  By contrast, NVIDIA's Denver is seven-wide [source].  Denver also features a rumored 192 KB cache, versus 64 KB in the Cyclone core.  How Denver stacks up to Apple's new A8 SoC and its cores remains to be seen.

III. Android Goes 64-Bit

But with 192 Kepler GPU CUDA cores alongside the Denver duo, the new chip shouldn't disappoint in performance.  It is already in use inside Google's Project Tango augmented reality tablet.  Apparently Google was pleased enough to give the NVIDIA SoC the nod for its coveted next-gen tablet contract.

The new tablet is expected to perhaps be the launch device for Android 5.0 "L", the first Android operating system to support AARCH64.  Google is believed to have ported most of its processes to 64-bit, which should help speed up certain functions such as file compression/decompression, image processing, video decoding, and other applications.

 
Android L will bring AARCH64 -- native support for 64-bit arm cores.

The new tablet is expected to highlight the prowess of 64-bit ARM by packing 4 GB or more LPDDR3 memory (the Denver-based K1 supports up to 8 GB of LPDDR3).

NVIDIA is expected to release an upgraded version of Tegra K1 early next year with its new Maxwell cores onboard.  That chip is also expected to be built on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd.'s (TPE:2330) (TSMC) new 20-nanometer process.

Sources: NVIDIA, via Bright Side of the News, via DroidLife, via PocketNow





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