Nvidia four-core chip to power quad-res Apple iPad
Comment Nvidia's move to go public on its four-core processor plans come, some readers will recall, just a month or so after it was claimed Apple's second-generation iPad will sport just such a chip, and weeks after it was suggested the iPad 3 will be out as early as the autumn.
Nonsense, said some. Apple wouldn't release iPad 2 this spring, as it seems set to do, then upgrade it again six months down the line.
Maybe, but Nvidia's release timetable shows how Apple might achieve this plan if it had such a move in mind. So let's have some fun seeing where this might lead.
Nvidia's 'Kal-El' chip - presumably to ship as Tegra 3 - will go into mass production in August. That's enough time for Apple to get it into the iPad 3 - perhaps the iPad HD - and launch it in late August or early September, the time of the year it regularly updates the iPod family.
Why iPad HD? Because rumours suggest a future iPad will sport a 2048 x 1536 display. This was originally assumed to be a feature of the iPad 2, but most pundits now reckon that's too early, not least because it'll require an impressive graphics engine, and such and engine did not, until today, exist officially.
If iPad 2 will have an iPad-like 1024 x 768 screen, it'll be able to run perfectly adequately with a 1GHz single-core ARM-based chip like Apple's A4. But with the competition keenly touting dual-core processors, Apple will probably feel the need to double up its core count too.
So we can see iPad 2 debuting in the coming months with a 1-1.5GHz Apple A5 on board.
Now a rumour that recently came right out of the blue followed blogger John Gruber's off-hand remark that Apple will launch a second iPad this year, in the autumn. This is self-confessed guesswork on Gruber's part, but it's based on a variety of hints from his sources.
Up creek without 'Pad
And, as I say, just when the notion of an autumn iPad revision was prompting slow shakes of the head among Apple watchers, along comes Nvidia with a product that'll be out right on schedule for the iPad 3 and has the power to drive the screen the gadget is said to have.
It could, of course, be coincidence. The rumours of the 2048 x 1536 iPad derived from claims about a tablet screen assembly with just such a resolution. Since iPad is the best known tablet, it was assumed that the über display was destined for the Apple product. It might have actually been a Tegra 3 test rig, which in turn explains the sudden talk of quad-core chippery a few days after the "retina display" iPad rumour broke.
The other point to note is that Apple's iOS devices contain Apple-branded chips. Yes, they're essentially rebranded Samsung parts, but while the South Korean giant might not care too much about that, it's hard to see Nvidia agreeing to it.
Nvidia wants to be a key player in the mobile gadget chip market, and it's up against some stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and Qualcomm. Selling lots of chips to Apple is good, but if Apple pretends it designed them, that won't persuade other manufacturers to buy Nvidia's technology.
To recap, Nvidia will release exactly the chip Apple needs to build the 4x resolution iPad it's rumoured to be building, at exactly the right time for such a product to be brought to market when it's rumoured to be bringing such a device to market.
Do you really want to get your iPad 2 pre-order in now? ®