Nvidia revealed its $199 Kai as a part of its future tablet strategy. Image: Nvidia
Lest any Android device manufacturer be confused about how to bring a low-cost, quad-core tablet to market, Nvidia has an answer. At an annual meeting for company investors, Nvidia VP Rob Csonger unveiled Kai, a $199 Android tablet powered by the company’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip.
Make no mistake: Nvidia is not jumping into the tablet-manufacturing business. Kai is reference hardware that’s been built to show manufacturers what they can do with the Tegra 3 processor. Nvidia has a long history of building reference designs for its desktop videocard partners, and now the chip maker is following suit in the mobile space.
Nvidia says partners are already using Kai to build shipping products, but wouldn’t reveal the specific names of the manufacturers on board.
“Kai is our low-cost Tegra 3 reference platform that allows tablet makers to build low-cost, quad-core Android tablets targeted at the $199 price point,” Bruce Chan, Tegra PR manager, told Wired. “It uses power-efficient Tegra 3 technologies to help reduce display power and bring lower cost devices to market.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a quad-core tablet targeted at such a low price-point. At CES 2012 in January, Nvidia showed off a $249 7-inch Asus tablet called the MeMo 370T that ran on the same Tegra 3 chip. Asus hasn’t committed to a MeMO release date in the U.S., and it’s unclear whether the tablet showcased at CES will ever arrive stateside. This makes Nvidia’s Kai unveiling all the more interesting — perhaps Kai will pave the way for an affordable, powerful Android tablet competitor sometime soon.
In his reveal, Csonger specifically referenced the Kindle Fire, stating that it has great price point, but disappointing performance. According to Csonger, the Kai tablet will run on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the latest version of Android’s mobile platform.
“Our strategy on Android is simply to enable quad-core tablets running Android Ice Cream Sandwich to be developed and brought out to market at the $199 price point, and the way we do that is a platform that we’ve developed called Kai,” Csonger said in the investor meeting. “So this uses a lot of the secret sauce that’s inside Tegra 3 to allow you to develop a tablet at a much lower cost, by using a lot of innovation that we’ve developed to reduce the power that’s used by the display and to use lower cost components within the tablet.”
Csonger also mentioned that Nvidia plans on taking advantage of the future Windows RT platform.
“The most exciting opportunity for us is a discontinuity and disruption that is going to occur in the PC world, which is the end of the Windows and Intel monopoly,” he said. “The ability to run Windows on ARM is a very big opportunity for Nvidia.”
Nvidia didn’t make any announcements on how much a Windows RT tablet might cost. Regardless, a $199, quad-core tablet from any manufacturer not named Amazon would be an exciting addition to the Android hardware ecosystem.