Nvidia toasts Intel in tablet processors

While Apple continues to dominate the tablet market with an estimated 61 percent unit share in Q1 2011, the chasing pack is also choosing ARM-based chips to power their devices, leaving Intel largely out in the cold.

According to market-watchers at Strategy Analytics, x86 processors accounted for less than five per cent of the total tablet apps processors shipped in Q1 2011. Intel is expected to support Android tablets from later this year which could potentially improve the x86-based processor share in tablets, the outfit notes.

Amongst the also-rans, Nvidia is emerging as a leading supplier of tablet chips with its Tegra range. Sravan Kundojjala, analyst on Strategy Analytics’ Handset Component Technologies programme reckons: "Nvidia topped with 34.4 percent unit volume share in Q1 2011, thanks to Nvidia's first-mover advantage with the dual-core Cortex-A9 processors and Honeycomb Android design-wins."

Strategy Analytics estimates Nvidia's tablet apps processor share increased to 48.6 percent in Q2 2011. The graphics chip firm's Tegra 2 processors featured in multiple tablets from top vendors, including the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9, Dell Streak 7, LG Optimus Pad 3D, Acer Iconia Tab 500 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer.

The analysts see no reason why Nvidia can't maintain this momentum with its upcoming Kal-El quad-core processor.

Stuart Robinson, director of Strategy Analytics’ Handset Component Technologies programme reckons the non-iPad camp is still waiting for a blockbuster product .

"We expect Amazon's rumoured tablet and Microsoft's Windows 8 platform will be catalysts for further tablet apps processor vendors dynamics, ” he said.

It's easy to see why Microsoft is developing for ARM, and why Intel's got some doggy-paddling to do to catch up with the boat.