Nvidia: Future chips will enhance video on mobile devices

Nvidia hopes to develop chips that enable applications such as image recognition and video search on mobile devices like smartphones and low-cost laptops, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said on Tuesday.

More Web sites are posting high-definition video, and thousands of hours of video are continuously added to the Web, so such applications could allow users to search for specific images in videos and enhance the Web for mobile device users, Huang said during a speech at Nvidia's analyst meeting that was webcast.

However, those applications require heavy graphics processing capabilities that are mostly seen on high-performance PCs like workstations, Huang said. Nvidia hopes to develop mobile graphics chips that ultimately enable those applications to work on mobile devices, he said.

Graphics chips will work alongside industry-standard CPUs to process data in future mobile devices, Huang said. The limited processing capabilities of CPUs are good to run basic applications and graphics processing units will be needed for data-intensive applications like video processing.

However, Nvidia doesn't aim to replace CPUs with graphics processors, but instead wants the GPUs to work with CPUs to for improved performance, Huang said. He called it a change in the "fundamental architecture" of computing devices, saying that CPUs alone are unable to deliver the kind of performance needed to accelerate graphics-intensive applications.

Nvidia has already taken steps to improve graphics on smartphones with its low-power mobile Tegra chips, which will appear in smartphones and netbooks later this year. Tegra chips bundle Arm-based processor cores with GeForce graphics cores on a single chip. Tegra puts Nvidia in direct competition with Intel, which offers low-power Atom processors for similar devices.

Ten hours of high-definition video on a single battery charge are possible with Tegra chips, said Michael Rayfield, general manager of the mobile business. Close to 27 wireless carriers worldwide have shown interest in bringing Tegra-based smartphones to market with phones priced between US$100 and $200. Tegra-based phones could be available by the end of this year, he said. Nvidia is also developing future Tegra chips that have lower power consumption at similar usage patterns.

Nvidia has also dipped into the growing netbook market with its Ion platform, a chip package that brings high-definition graphics to low-cost PCs like netbooks. Ion pairs Nvidia's GeForce 9400M GPU with Intel's Atom CPU for a CPU to work alongside a GPU, and Lenovo has announced it will put the Ion platform in its IdeaPad S12 netbook.

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