Nvidia Corp. has been addressing different kind of devices with its highly-integrated Tegra system-on-chips, but while the company has managed to win tens of designs, those devices were not truly mass products. Up to recently, Nvidia could not integrate communication features, but with the takeover of Icera, Tegra with 3G/4G modem was inevitable. It is coming in 2012.
"Wayne is our next-generation [Tegra] processor and along with that we will have a processor called 'Grey', this is where we are going to integrate Tegra processor with Icera modem into a 3G/4G little tiny chip to address the vast majority of the smartphone market," said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive officer of Nvidia, at Citi Global Technology Conference.
Nvidia's code-named Wayne system-on-chip from the Tegra family will succeed the upcoming Kal El, which is specifically targeted at tablets and similar high-performance ultra-portable devices. Wayne is projected to be made using 28nm process technology and emerge sometimes in 2012.
Nothing particular is known about the code-named Grey system-on-chip for smartphones apart from the fact that it will sport 3G/4G/other communication capabilities, will likely be made using 28nm fabrication process and will have a GeForce-class programmable graphics core. It is unknown whether the SoC will sport four ARM application cores or two, whether those cores will be progressive Cortex-A15 (in case Grey is a cut-down Wayne with 3G/4G) or will retain conservative Cortex-A9 (less likely).
At present Nvidia supplies SoCs to around one third of non-Apple tablets, but its market share on the market of smartphones is by far lower as the majority of cellphone vendors want very high levels of integration to keep costs down and form-factors slow.
With the addition of Icera, Nvidia offers the two main processors used in smartphones - the applications processor, in the form of the Nvidia Tegra system-on-chip, and the baseband processor, based on Icera technology. With the combined offering, Nvidia will be able to address markets of lower-cost devices. Icera’s baseband and RF technologies span 2G, 3G and 4G networks.
Nvidia traditionally code-names Tegra products after sci-fi characters or events. Tegra "Grey" system-on-chip is called after Jean Grey-Summers, one of five original members of the X-Men. Jean Grey was born with telepathic and telekinetic powers.