Everyone is not too happy with Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) brand that the company came up with for its small form factor desktop replacements at IDF 2012. Intel started shipping these small desktops in early 2013.
NUC started off with Sandy Bridge-based parts codenamed Ski Lake (DCP847SK) and with the Celeron 847 it got quite a lot of attention thanks to more affordable pricing. A year after Intel launched multiple Core i3 based SKUs with Ivy Bridge and this year it introduced models based on Wilson Canyon platform and Haswell CPUs. Affordable Bay Trail models appeared as well.
The latest Intel NUC Kit D54250WYK measures tiny 116.6mm x 112mm x 34.5mm and sells for about 370 USD in states and 300 Euro in Germany or £278 in the UK. Back at IDF 2014, Intel’s biggest developer conference some people close to NUC projects told us that since the launch the project has been success.
It started with 250,000 shipped units in the first generation and grew to half a million units with second generation products. There is a chance that this year Intel might sell as many as one million units as an ultimate goal but shipments in the 750,000 to 1 million range might be more realistic. Even if Intel sells around 750,000 units, it will mean that they managed to triple the market within rather short time.
There will be Braswell and Broadwell fourth generation NUCs coming in 2015, but Intel needs to launch 15W TDP part Broadwell and this happens in Q2 2015 as far as we know. We don’t know if the Braswell NUC comes as soon as Broadwell-U or a bit later, but it is in the works.
This Braswell NUC should be really affordable and should replace the Bay-Trail M based DN2820FYKH powered by the Celeron N2820. Have in mind that this entry level Celeron costs a mere $144 at press time and only needs some RAM and an HDD to work. At its lowest spec 2GB SODIMM sell for as low as $10 and Toshiba has MSATA 62GB drive for as low as $24.95.
This means a small, power efficient machine that can run Windows goes as low as $179. No wonder that they are so popular.
Intel has announced that it is sampling its Xeon D 14nm processor family, a system on chip (SoC) optimized to deliver Intel Xeon processor performance for hyperscale workloads.
Announcing the news on stage during a keynote at IDF in San Francisco, Intel SVP and GM of the Data Centre Group, Diane Bryant, said that the Intel Xeon processor D, which initially was announced in June, will be based on 14nm process technology and be aimed at mid-range communications.
“We’re pleased to announce that we’re sampling the third generation of the high density [data center system on a chip] product line, but this one is actually based on the Xeon processor, called Xeon D,” Bryant announced. “It’s 14nm and the power levels go down to as low as 15 Watts, so very high density and high performance.”
Intel believes that its Xeon D will serve the needs of high density, optimized servers as that market develops, and for networking it will serve mid-range routers as well as other network appliances, while it will also serve entry and mid-range storage. So, Intel claimed, you will get all of the benefits of Xeon-class reliability and performance, but you will also get a very small footprint and high integration of SoC capability.
This first generation Xeon D chip will also showcase high levels of I/O integrations, including 10Gb Ethernet, and will scale Intel Xeon processor performance, features and reliability to lower power design points, according to Intel.
The Intel Xeon processor D product family will also include data centre processor features such as error correcting code (ECC).
“With high levels of I/O integration and energy efficiency, we expect the Intel Xeon processor D product family to deliver very competitive TCO to our customers,” Bryant said. “The Intel Xeon processor D product family will also be targeted toward hyperscale storage for cloud and mid-range communications market.”
Bryant said that the product is not yet available, but it is being sampled, and the firm will release more details later this year.
This announcement comes just days after Intel launched its Xeon E5 v2 processor family for servers and workstations.
Intel will do something that it never did before. It will release two processor generations at once in the desktop space. The Haswell refresh Core i7 4790, Core i5 4690, Core i5 4690K, Core i5 4690 and Core i5 4590 will be replaced by both Tick and Tock parts.
The fastest of the lot, the one that replaces Core i5 4790K Haswell refresh, is a Broadwell generation processor. The next generation Skylake-S processor will end up slower than Broadwell one and if nothing major changes both will end up branded as Core i7 processors. Broadwell seems to be the fastest Core i5 as well, followed by Skylake-S cores. Traditional desktop LGA Broadwell has TDP up to 65W, something that Intel can change in a heartbeat and supports DDR3 or DDR3L 1.5V memory.
Enthusiast Skylake-S has a TDP of 95W indicating that it might end up faster and it supports both DDR4 with 1.2V and DDR3L with 1.35V voltage. Broadwell 14nm is coming with Iris Pro graphics while the Skylake-S 14nm also promises a new graphics microarchitecture.
Of course, Core i7 5820K, Core i7 5930K and Core i7 5960X remain the fastest of the intel offer until they get replaced by a next generation Core i7 codenamed Broadwell-E. Haswell refresh and Core i7 4790K will get a replacement in Q2 2015 when Intel simultaneously launches faster Broadwell and slower Skylake-S LGA cores.
Intel is getting down from four processor lines to three and it looks like Broadwell won’t come with an M-processor line and 57W, 47W, 37W parts. This is not something we expect to happen at this point. The H-processor line will take over the 47W TDP high performance market for mobile computers and some AIOs.
The H-processor 47W line, U-Processor Line with 15W and 28W TDP parts will end up with 5th Gen Intel Core branding. We expect a range of Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 parts that will be revealed probably at some point after Intel Developer Forum, or after mid-September 2014.
The Y-processor line will end up with the new Intel Core M processor brand and it will aim for high performance detachable and convertible systems that will show up in the latter part of Q4 2014.
Broadwell with 4.5W TDP and Core M branding will end up only in these fancy detachable notebooks and might be one of the most powerful and fastest tablet/detachable platforms around. It will also ‘speak’ Windows 8.1 at launch and we should see some Google Chrome OS products in early 2015.
Intel also plans to keep the Pentium and Celeron brands around and they will be used for Bay Trail-M processors. These parts have been shipping for more than three quarters in entry level detachables such as the Asus T100TA.
Intel is cooking up a hot batch of Xeon processors for servers and workstations, and system vendors have already designed systems that are ready and raring to go as soon as the chips become available.
Boston is one of the companies doing just that, and we know this because it gave us an exclusive peek into its labs to show off what these upgraded systems will look like. While we can’t share any details about the new chips involved yet, we can preview the systems they will appear in, which are awaiting shipment as soon as Intel gives the nod.
Based on chassis designs from Supermicro, with which Boston has a close relationship, the systems comprise custom-built solutions for specific user requirements.
On the workstation side, Boston is readying a mid-range and a high-end system with the new Intel Xeon chips, both based on two-socket Xeon E5-2600v3 rather than the single socket E5-1600v3 versions.
There’s also the mid-range Venom 2301-12T, which comes in a mid-tower chassis and ships with an Nvidia Quadro K4000 card for graphics acceleration. It comes with 64GB of memory and a 240GB SSD as a boot device, plus two 1TB Sata drives configured as a Raid array for data storage.
For extra performance, Boston has also prepared the Venom 2401-12T, which will ship with faster Xeon processors, 128GB of memory and an Nvidia Quadro K6000 graphics card. This also has a 240GB SSD as a boot drive, with two 2TB drives configured as a Raid array for data storage.
Interestingly, Intel’s new Xeon E5-2600v3 processors are designed to work with 2133MHz DDR4 memory instead of the more usual DDR3 RAM, and as you can see in the picture below, DDR4 DIMM modules have slightly longer connectors towards the middle.
For servers, Boston has prepared a 1U rack-mount “pizza box” system, the Boston Value 360p. This is a two-socket server with twin 10Gbps Ethernet ports, support for 64GB of memory and 12Gbps SAS Raid. It can also be configured with NVM Express (NVMe) SSDs connected to the PCI Express bus rather than a standard drive interface.
Boston also previewed a multi-node rack server, the Quattro 12128-6, which is made up of four separate two-socket servers inside a 2U chassis. Each node has up to 64GB of memory, with 12Gbps SAS Raid storage plus a pair of 400GB SSDs.
The Linux Foundation has announced an online certification programme for entry-level system admininstration and advanced Linux software engineering professionals to help expand the global pool of Linux sysadmin and developer talent.
The foundation indicated that it established the certification programme because there’s increasing demand for staff in the IT industry, saying, “Demand for experienced Linux professionals continues to grow, with this year’s Linux Jobs Report showing that managers are prioritizing Linux hires and paying more for this talent.
“Because Linux runs today’s global technology infrastructure, companies around the world are looking for more Linux professionals, yet most hiring managers say that finding Linux talent is difficult.”
Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin said, “Our mission is to address the demand for Linux that the industry is currently experiencing. We are making our training [programme] and Linux certification more accessible to users worldwide, since talent isn’t confined to one geography or one distribution.
“Our new Certification [Programme] will enable employers to easily identify Linux talent when hiring and uncover the best of the best. We think Linux professionals worldwide will want to proudly showcase their skills through these certifications and that these certificates will become a hallmark of quality throughout our industry.”
In an innovative departure from other Linux certification testing offered by a number of Linux distribution vendors and training firms, the foundation said, “The new Certification [Programme] exams and designations for Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS) and Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE) will demonstrate that users are technically competent through a groundbreaking, performance-based exam that is available online, from anywhere and at any time.”
The exams are customised somewhat to accommodate technical differences that exist between three major Linux distributions that are characteristic of those usually encountered by Linux professionals working in the IT industry. Exam takers can choose between CentOS, openSUSE or Ubuntu, a derivative of Debian.
“The Linux Foundation’s certification [programme] will open new doors for Linux professionals who need a way to demonstrate their know-how and put them ahead of the rest,” said Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth.
Those who want to look into acquiring the LFCS and LFCE certifications can visit the The Linux Foundation website where it offers the exams, as well as training to prepare for them. The exams are priced at $300, but apparently they are on special introductory offer for $50.
The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development. It is supported by a diverse roster of almost all of the largest IT companies in the world except Microsoft.
Then add to the mix that it’s a laser-cut origami robot and you have the new robotic technology created by a team of engineers from Harvard, the Wyss Institute and MIT.
“The exciting thing here is that you create this device that has computation embedded in the flat, printed version,” Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, said in a statement. “And when these devices lift up from the ground into the third dimension, they do it in a thoughtful way.”
The technology, which mimics the way amino acids fold themselves into complex proteins, demonstrates scientists’ ability to cheaply and quickly build sophisticated robots that can automate their own design and assembly process, according to Harvard.
“Getting a robot to assemble itself autonomously and actually perform a function has been a milestone we’ve been chasing for many years,” said Robert J. Wood, a professor of engineering at Harvard and the Wyss Institute.
The universities contend that this is the first robot that can assemble itself and then perform a function — all without human intervention.
“Imagine a ream of dozens of robotic satellites sandwiched together so that they could be sent up to space and then assemble themselves remotely once they get there,” said Sam Felton, a Harvard doctoral student, who worked on the project. “They could take images, collect data and more.”
Researchers have been working on different pieces of this technology for some time.
In May, MIT’s Rus announced that scientists there had made progress on the promise of 3D printed robots.
The team created printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into three-dimensional configurations. The researchers also figured out how to build electrical components — like resistors and inductors — from these self-assembling materials.
MIT noted that the new self-assembling robotic work is similar, but a network of electrical leads, rather than an oven or hot plate, delivers heat to the robot’s joints to initiate the folding.
According to MIT, the new robots are created with five layers of materials, all of which are created by a laser cutter. The top and bottom layers are made of polymer, which folds when heated. Those polymer layers hold two layers of paper, which in turn hold the middle layer. That middle layer is made of copper etched into a complex network of electrical leads.
A microprocessor, batteries and tiny motors are attached to the top layer.
Researchers are trying to use either a single, two or four motors. Each motor, which is controlled by the microprocessor, controls two robotic legs.
Intel’s 5th generation Core processor family is condemned Broadwell and it is coming in Q4 2014 to select thin and light notebooks. It launches with the Y-series processor line (4.5W TDP) and it will expand to the H-series processor line with a max TDP of 47W by Q2 2015.
Naturally the new core is getting new graphics. The Y-processor line that launches first will come with Intel HD Graphics 5300 and this is the part that we meant when we said that 2014 Broadwell won’t be the full Monty. The first Broadwell core is not getting the new 6000 series Iris graphics core. That was the main compromise that Intel had to face in order to bring this processor to market in late 2014.
The follow up U-processor line will get two new graphics cores. The first one is Intel Iris Graphics 6100 and the second one is Intel HD Graphics 6000. There will another option as well , in the form of Intel HD Graphics 5500. The U-processor line limited to 15W to 28W SKUs is launching already in Q1 2015 and it will get the new 6000 series core.
The H-Processor line will get the fastest graphics option and the fastest core called Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200 seems to be the fastest option available. The H-processor line will also come with the Intel HD Graphics 5600 core.
Sadly, we didn’t get more about the actual specification. We just have the official designations and a timeframe, but at least we know when to expect them.
Intel’s 5th Core processor family, codenamed Broadwell, will launch in three lines for the mobile segment. We are talking about upcoming Broadwell 14nm processors that will start appearing in Q4 2014 and will continue to launch trough the first half of 2015.
The 5th generation Core 5Y70 and three other similar parts belong to the Y-line of processors. these are BGA processors with 4.5W TDP and they draw significantly less power than the Y-line of processors belonging to the Haswell generation. The Haswell Y-processor line has a TDP of 11.5W and 4.5W – 6W Scenario Design Power (SDP). Since Intel is doing fine with 4.5W TDP on Broadwell it doesn’t use the imaginary SDP rating for the 5th generation of Core processors.
Y, U and H-processor lines
The second to come is the U-Series line that comes in BGA and TDPs ranging from 15W to 28W. Remember Broadwell 5th generation Core has graphics inside as well, so these power figures sound quite good. It replaces U-series line of Haswell 4th generation parts that also has a TDP of 15W to 28W.
The last of 5th generation mobile processor family is the H-processor line that comes with BGA and whooping 47W TDP. This one is meant for the high end systems and Intel has U processor line with Haswell with the same TDP and a lower TDP version that had 37W maximum thermal dissipation.
No Broadwell M-series 37W, 47W and 57W parts?
One might notice that Intel doesn’t mention the M-processor line that is available in Haswell flavour, but this processor line is not mentioned in the current roadmap.
Broadwell 5th generation Core U-series line starts in Q1 2015, Broadwell 5th generation Core Y-series line starts in Q4 2015, while the H-series line starts appearing in Q2 2015.
Bay Trail-M also known as N-processor line with its 7.5W to 4.3W TDP and 4.5W and 2.5W Scenario Design Power will stick around until it gets replaced by more efficient Braswell designs in Q1 2015.
AMD’s upcoming Carrizo APU might not make it to the desktop market at all.
According to Italian tech site bitsandchips.it, citing industry sources, AMD plans to limit Carrizo to mobile parts. Furthermore the source claims Carrizo will not support DDR4 memory. We cannot confirm or deny the report at this time.
If the rumours turn out to be true, AMD will not have a new desktop platform next year. Bear in mind that Intel is doing the exact same thing by bringing 14nm silicon to mobile rather than desktop. AMD’s roadmap previously pointed to a desktop Carrizo launch in 2015.
AMD’s FM2+ socket and Kaveri derivatives would have to hold the line until 2016. The same goes for the AM3+ platform, which should also last until 2016.
Not much is known about Carrizo at the moment, hence we are not in a position to say much about the latest rumours. AMD’s first 20nm APU will be Nolan, but Carrizo will be the first 20nm big core. AMD confirmed a number of delays in a roadmap leaked last August.
The company recently confirmed its first 20nm products are coming next year. In all likelihood AMD will be selling 32nm, 28nm and 20nm parts next year.
AMD is fast tracking stacked DRAM deployment and a new presentation leaked by the company points to APUs with stacked DRAM, or high bandwidth memory (HBM).
AMD is calling the project “Fastforward” and it is all about boosting memory bandwidth on upcoming APUs. However, AMD is not talking about specific products yet and it is unclear whether HBM will be implemented on its upcoming Carizzo APU. This seems highly unlikely at this point for a number of reasons and if we were to speculate we would say HBM is coming to the next-next generation of AMD APUs.
Stacked DRAM APUs to deliver up to 128GBps bandwidth
Using two DRAM stacks AMD could boost bandwidth at an unprecedented rate. Two stacks would result in a 1024-bit interface and up to 128GBps bandwidth. GDDR5 maxes out at 32 bits and 28GBps. With one stack in play the results are somewhat lower, 512-bit bus and 64GBps bandwidth.
AMD says it is looking at 1.2V+ DRAM with 2Gb per stack and 4 DRAM modules per stack. However, the presentation states that AMD is currently conducting evaluations of “various architectures and interface options,” so it could be a while before we see what exactly it has in mind.
AMD’s Fastforward objectives
Stacked DRAM is just part of the story, as AMD’s Fastforward initiative is a bit broader. The company says its principle Fastforward objective is to investigate processor and memory technologies for exascale systems based on high volume architectures and open standards.
The end result should “provide significant benefits” to high volume markets and the chipmaker says it is “based on extending high volume APU architecture.”
The list of key technologies which are part of the fastforward project is quite long. HSA, stacked DRAM, new APIs, non-volatile memory and processing-in-memory are just some of them.
Nvidia has released CUDA – its code that lets developers run their code on GPUs – to server vendors in order to get 64-bit ARM cores into the high performance computing (HPC) market.
The firm said today that ARM64 server processors, which are designed for microservers and web servers because of their energy efficiency, can now process HPC workloads when paired with GPU accelerators using the Nvidia CUDA 6.5 parallel programming framework, which supports 64-bit ARM processors.
“Nvidia’s GPUs provide ARM64 server vendors with the muscle to tackle HPC workloads, enabling them to build high-performance systems that maximise the ARM architecture’s power efficiency and system configurability,” the firm said.
The first GPU-accelerated ARM64 software development servers will be available in July from Cirrascale and E4 Computer Engineering, with production systems expected to ship later this year. The Eurotech Group also plans to ship production systems later this year.
Cirrascale’s system will be the RM1905D, a high density two-in-one 1U server with two Tesla K20 GPU accelerators, which the firm claims provides high performance and low total cost of ownership for private cloud, public cloud, HPC and enterprise applications.
E4′s EK003 is a production-ready, low-power 3U dual-motherboard server appliance with two Tesla K20 GPU accelerators designed for seismic, signal and image processing, video analytics, track analysis, web applications and Mapreduce processing.
Eurotech’s system is an “ultra-high density”, energy efficient and modular Aurora HPC server configuration, based on proprietary Brick Technology and featuring direct hot liquid cooling.
Featuring Applied Micro X-Gene ARM64 CPUs and Nvidia Tesla K20 GPU accelerators, the new ARM64 servers will provide customers with an expanded range of efficient, high-performance computing options to drive compute-intensive HPC and enterprise data centre workloads, Nvidia said.
Nvidia added, “Users will immediately be able to take advantage of hundreds of existing CUDA-accelerated scientific and engineering HPC applications by simply recompiling them to ARM64 systems.”
ARM said that it is working with Nvidia to “explore how we can unite GPU acceleration with novel technologies” and drive “new levels of scientific discovery and innovation”.
AMD is planning to bring its new Mantle API to Linux in the near future. Although Linux is not a big gaming platform at the moment, SteamOS could change all that starting next year.
AMD’s Richard Huddy says the decision was prompted by requests from developers who would like to see Mantle on Linux. However, he stopped short of specifying a launch date. Huddy confirmed that AMD plans to dedicate resources to bringing Mantle to Linux, but other than that we don’t have much to go on.
Mantle on SteamOS makes a lot of sense
Mantle is designed to cut CPU overhead and offer potentially significant performance improvements on certain hardware configurations. This basically means gamers can save a few pennies on their CPU and use them towards a better GCN-based graphics card.
However, aside from enthusiasts who build their own gaming rigs, the world of PC gaming is also getting a lot of attention from vendors specialising in out-of-the box gaming PCs and laptops. Many of them have already announced plans to jump the SteamOS bandwagon with Steam Machines of their own.
Should Mantle become available on Linux and SteamOS, it would give AMD a slight competitive edge, namely in the value department. In theory vendors should be able to select a relatively affordable APU and discrete GPU combo for their Steam boxes.
AMD already tends to provide good value in the CPU department. The prospect of using mainstream APUs backed by cheap discrete Radeons (or even Dual Graphics systems) sounds interesting.
It will take a while but the potential is there
Huddy told PC World that Mantle has some clear advantages over DirectX. Microsoft’s new DirectX 12 API has already been announced, but the first games to support it won’t arrive until late 2015.
“It (Mantle) could provide some advantages on Steam boxes,” said Huddy. “We are getting requests to deliver this high-performance layer.”
While DirectX 12 will be very relevant in the PC space, the same obviously cannot be said of Linux and SteamOS. Therefore Mantle on Linux makes a lot of sense. However, it all depends on AMD’s timetable.
Last month Valve announced Steam Machines would be pushed back to 2015. They were originally supposed to launch this summer and the first announcements were made months ago. The first designs were based on Intel and Nvidia silicon, but support for AMD hardware was added just a bit later.
When Valve announced the delay we argued that it could have a silver lining for AMD. It simply gives AMD more time to improve its drivers or add Mantle support, something Nvidia and Intel do not have to worry about.
It still remains to be seen whether Steam Machines can make a big dent on the gaming market. PC gaming is going through a renaissance, but the latest consoles are doing well, too (apart from the Wii U). The concept is very attractive on more than one level, but it is very difficult to make any predictions yet, since we are still about 15 months away from launch.
According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), shipments of discrete graphics cards were down in the first quarter of the year. This is in line with seasonal trends, as the market cools down after the holiday season.
The sequential drop was 6.7 percent, which was still better than the overall desktop PC market, which slumped 9 percent. However, on a year-to-year basis add-in-board (AIB) shipments were down 0.8 percent. PC sales were down 1.1 percent.
Nvidia still controls two thirds of the market
Total AIB shipments in Q1 were just 14 million units. AMD and Nvidia both saw their shipments decrease 6.6 percent, so their market share did not change much.
Nvidia controls an estimated 65 percent of the market, up from 64.2 percent last year. AMD’s market share in Q1 was 35 percent, down from 35.6 percent a year ago.
The overall volume remains weak and in the long run things could get even worse, as on-die integrated graphics have already taken a big toll on sales of entry level discrete cards. As integrated GPUs become even faster, they are likely to cannibalize the low end market even further.
JPR points out that the AIB market peaked in 1999, with 114 million units shipped. Last year saw only 65 million units and the stagnant trend is likely to continue this year.
It’s not all bad news for AIBs
Although the slump in discrete GPU shipments is hurting AMD and NV hardware partners, JPR offers a rather encouraging outlook.
It points out that graphics cards are one of the most powerful, essential and exciting components in the PC market today. PC gaming is hardly dead, in fact it is going through what can only be described as a small renaissance. PCs will offer 4K/UHD gaming years ahead of consoles and the Steam Machine concept is looking good, too.
The compute market is another driver, as JPR points out:
“The technology is entering into major new markets like supercomputers, remote workstations, and simulators almost on a daily basis. It would be little exaggeration to say that the AIB resembles the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”
The AIB market is quite a bit less colourful and eventful than it was back in the day, but at least AIBs still have a lot on their hands and they are trying to tap new markets.
We spent a few weeks trying to find out what Nvidia has in mind for Tegra, as the company made quite a few sharp turns in its strategy. The first thing that happened is CUDA support, which is good for the security and defence markets, as it enables target recognition and similar tasks that can also be used for some peaceful technologies such as self-driving car.
Jetson is a cheap supercomputer base, but it is a very expensive microcontroller board. Apparently it is selling well, as it’s the fastest sub-10W supercomputer capable chip one can buy, and it costs $192. What Jen-Hsun Huang mentioned in the company’s financial Q1 2015 conference call is that Nvidia envisions “three growth drivers” for Tegra. They see Tegra in mobile devices, automotive and gaming.
Automotive is growing for Nvidia, but the company doesn’t really tell the world any meaningful numbers. Winning Tesla’s business means a few hundred thousand chips considering the fact that Tesla uses more than one Tegra chip per car. Tesla uses the old Tegra 2, something that the mobile devices market vaguely remembers. A total of 87 million cars were sold worldwide last year and there is a nice market opportunity for Nvidia there. Of course, the competition won’t stand still and let Nvidia conquer the automotive market unopposed, but we don’t see car manufactures changing Tegra for Qualcomm as quickly as this happened in mobile devices. Cars as platforms are built to last at least 5 years before any significant refresh and once you get a deal, you stay with the company for a while.
The other two catalysts that Huang mentioned, including mobile devices, might be a more troublesome component of Nvidia’s strategy. We simply cannot see Tegra K1 in any significant high-volume phone design in 2014. There are still some chances that Tegra K1 might end up in a few cool tablets, but it will be tough to land some top selling ones including the Nexus or Kindle Fire tablet refresh. In 2013 Qualcomm Snapdragon won both of these top selling tablets that are selling well. Gaming as a catalyst for Nvidia’s Tegra mobile strategy is a good playing card, but we are not sure how many Shield consoles you can sell. Nvidia has its own tablet, the Tegra Note 7, and probably a Tegra Note 8 in the works. However, these won’t outsell Google Nexus tablets anytime soon. Intel has big tablet plans to boost its market presence with 40 million units planned this year and Intel’s market development fund boosters are legendary and traditionally they work quite well with Taiwan, China, even US- and EU-based companies. Qualcomm and Mediatek have a strong presence in the tablet market, with Mediatek getting stronger every quarter especially in the lower end of the market. AMD wants a piece of Intel’s x86 tablet pie, too. It will be an interesting market to watch.
Since Tegra K1 doesn’t have an on board LTE it is a hard sell for phones in 2014. Top four phones in 2014 don’t have it as Samsung Galaxy 5, HTC One M8, LG G3 chose Qualcomm and Apple is using its own chips. Other top brands including Sony, Motorola are using Qualcomm for their high end phones. Even Chinese Xiaomi chose Snapdragon for its Mi3 phone, but there is a slim chance that there will be Tegra version too. China doesn’t really care about LTE, at least not yet. Nvidia might have a chance in the mainstream phone market, but its chances are not good. Mediatek is getting really strong in this market and Qualcomm has some great solution for this market as well. The Tegra 4i Gray chip has three design wins so far, Wiko Wax, LG G2 Mini in South America and security focused Blackphone. That’s simply not enough, not even close. At this point it seems increasingly likely that the Tegra 4i will not even have a successor.
Nvidia hopes that having two chips, one 32-bit based on Cortex A15 cores and one based on Denver 64-bit cores, might work. We will have to wait and see as the Tegra K1 has currently shipped only in the Jetson TK1 kit and the reason behind is probably the super high margin Nvidia can make with a $192 supercomputer board. We expect to see Tegra TK1 based products in June time, around Google IO. An 8-inch Tegra TK1 tablet would not surprise us, either. However, it’s not easy to be optimistic, as we simply don’t see a lot of potential design wins this year.