Tegra plans Qualcomm assault with 3G/4G Tegra SoC

Nvidia has declared war on Qualcomm - famously described by Jen-Hsun Huang as the company's only true competitor in the mobile space - with details of a new heavily-integrated Tegra system-on-chip design dubbed 'Grey.'

Describing his company as being "the only person actively on the dancefloor with Qualcomm," Huang has already detailed his company's aim to become a mobile chipset specialist first and foremost. While graphics technologies for laptops, desktops and even servers will continue to be a part of the company's future, Huang is looking to grow its Tegra mobile chipset business to $20 billion by 2015, while only targeting a modest $7 billion for the company's graphics products.

The main stumbling block for Nvidia in this area is in integration: Qualcomm offers some massively integrated system-on-chip designs, which combine 3G and LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi, GPS, central processing, and graphics into a one-stop solution for a company making a tablet or smartphone device.

Nvidia's Tegra, on the other hand, offers merely graphics, central processing, and related functionality - meaning that OEMs looking to make a Tegra device need to add in other parts themselves, making the smartphone or tablet more expensive, bulkier, and more power-hungry.

Integration is Qualcomm's key selling point for the mobile market, and one which has seen the company spend a fortune acquiring companies like Atheros to add their know-how to its SoC division and increase the functionality offered by its chips. It's likely the reason that Qualcomm isn't overly worried by the noises coming out of Nvidia, but that could be set to change thanks to Grey.

The codename for a new Tegra system-on-chip design, Grey was unveiled by Jen-Hsun Huang at the Citi Global Technology Conference this week. "Wayne is our next-generation processor," Huang is quoted as saying by X-bit Labs, "and along with that we will have a processor called 'Grey.'

"This is where we are going to integrate the Tegra processor with an Icera modem into a 3G/4G, little, tiny chip to address the vast majority of the smartphone market," Huang concluded during his speech at the conference.

'Wayne' is Nvidia's fourth-generation Tegra mobile processor, due to launch towards the end of 2012 as the successor to the quad-core Kal-El and itself to be followed by Logan and Stark in the following years. While Huang was light on details, that suggests that his highly-integrated superchip is due to launch next year, with the first devices from partner companies likely to hit the channel before the start of 2013.

Sadly, technical details are thin on the ground: no official documentation relating to Grey has appeared from the company, and Huang refused to divulge the processor type or its performance characteristics. If it proves as successful as the company's modemless Tegra chips, however, Qualcomm could have some stiff competition on its hands.