Ina Fried

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After Slow Start, Nvidia Hopes to Drive Tegra 2 Into the Smartphone Mainstream

When Nvidia first launched its Tegra 2 processor, there was no doubt it had a place inside some of the highest end phones and tablets of its time.

The issue came, several months later, as it had lost that performance crown and yet wasn’t ready with its quad-core Tegra 3 processor. Indeed, slower than expected Tegra 2 sales were among the factors that led Nvidia to post disappointing December quarter results.

Nvidia executives concede now they just didn’t move fast enough to drive the chip into the mainstream of the market.

“We gapped out getting Tegra 2 from the top end to the mainstream,” mobile unit general manager Mike Rayfield said in an interview. “That was kind of our bad”

The company aims to change that, starting with a Tegra 2 design in a phone from China’s ZTE. The phone, aimed at the sub-$200 unsubsidized smartphone market packs the latest version of Android and other high-end features but is priced solidly at the mainstream. It’s due to arrive around the second quarter of the year.

“We’ve been in the high-end phones since the start,” Rayfield said. “As you’d imagine that’s where we’d start. We’re now working hard to push down into what is the mainstream.”

The ZTE phone is another milestone for Nvidia. It’s also the first phone to incorporate the Icera software modem that Nvidia acquired last year.

Meanwhile, for ZTE, the Mimosa X is the latest step in the company’s effort to broaden its reach. Earlier this month ZTE introduced its first U.S. tablet, the Optik for Sprint.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle