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Atmel, Nvidia design kit enables next-gen mobile devices

Posted: 16 Feb 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Tegra 2 ARM-based processor? mXT1386 touchscreen chipset? Android-based mobile Internet devices? tablet market?

OEMs are continually challenged to create products that can rival Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPad. But they all ask how.

Chip vendors Atmel Corp. and Nvidia Corp. claim they know the answer. Both companies will formally launch a reference design kit that will enable next-generation mobile Internet products running the Android OS at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

This reference design includes Nvidia's Tegra 2 ARM-based processor and Atmel's mXT1386 touchscreen chipset. The kit enables OEMs to speed up their development of Android-based smartphones, tablet PCs, mobile Internet devices and other products, said Binay Bajaj, senior product marketing manager of touch products at San Jose-based Atmel.

The Tegra 2 is a dual-core, ARM-based processor that runs at 1GHz. Atmel's maXTouch touchscreen chipset family enables up to 16-simultaneous touches.

Not all OEMs will succeed in the next-generation smartphone and tablet PC markets, Bajaj said. But with this reference kit, OEMs will stand a fighting chance to gain "a lot of traction," Bajaj told EE Times.

Other chipmakers are also vying in this space. In the mobile Internet processor front, Broadcom, Freescale, Intel, Nvidia, Marvell, Qualcomm, TI and others compete in the arena.

This market includes smartphones and tablet PCs, which is dominated by ARM-based processors. Intel Corp. is looking to crack the fray with x86-based solutions.

In the touch-screen chipset market, Atmel, Cypress, IDT, Renesas, Synaptics and others compete. Atmel Corp. appears to have the most momentum in the arena, which is expected to become even more competitive. "Starting in 2012, we believe the landscape is set to become hyper competitive from new touch vendors, including Maxim, Avago, TI, Silicon Labs and ADI," said analyst Doug Freedman of Gleacher & Co.

It is critical for OEMs to select the right chip solutions and for good reason in the arena: The stakes are huge. "We believe the semiconductor industry is entering the fourth wave of computing or the ultramobile era," said Gus Richard, an analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co., in a recent report. "The iPad, iPhone, and Android OS are all early winners in this new era, and they are leading the fourth wave."

The smartphone market is projected to grow 30 percent in 2011 and jump another 25 percent in 2012, according to Gleacher & Co. Apple, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, RIM, Samsung and others are fighting each other in this space.

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