Nalini Muppala

Analysis, observations, perspectives on mobile space

TI wireless: Tablet Effect

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TI sees the Tablet space as a significant opportunity. Intense competition lies ahead.

TI sees the Tablet space as a significant opportunity. This is clear from the following comments from TI executives during the most recent conference call discussing earnings for Q4 2010.

“We are deeply engaged in collaborating with multiple customers on tablet programs that reach across TI product lines, including OMAP 4 applications processors, single-chip wireless connectivity solutions that integrate four radio technologies: WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and FM, and Analog Power Management technologies that optimize overall power distribution and consumption within the tablet.” – Ron Slaymaker

“…tablets are a targeted area for us across a number of product lines just because that’s a new emerging space with a lot of opportunities.” – Ron Slaymaker

“We need to expand our wireless connectivity and applications to process server positions in the smartphone market, as well as in tablets” – Kevin March

source: Seeking Alpha earnings call transcript

While TI is well positioned with competitive products. Market forces are set to ensure a rough ride ahead. Again, in TI’s own words:

“So again, we’ve acknowledged for a long time the tablet market, as is the smartphone market will be a competitive market. But I think you’re going to find that translates to great opportunity for TI across a variety of product areas.” – Ron Slaymaker

So what is going on in the Tablet space for application processor vendors?

  1. It is still early days and the market is wide open.
  2. Anecdotal evidence from the current crop of popular devices in the market and the ones announced show that competition for application processor slot is fierce.

    application processors in Tablets

  3. Smartphone slots do not translate to tablets.
  4. Device vendors are not clinging to relationships established with SoC vendors for smarphones. Several Tablet vendors have shown willingness to start their tablet efforts on a different platform than just extending their successful smartphone designs.
    Motorola Droid was a showcase device for TI OMAP 3; Motorola’s Xoom tablet uses NVIDIA processor. Blackberry phones for the most part were split between Marvell and Qualcomm; However, RIM playbook uses TI OMAP 4. All recent Palm phones use TI OMAP 3; HP (Palm’s Web OS) TouchPad uses Qualcomm Snapdragon.
    application processors in smartphones vs Tablets

  5. Tablet slots might translate to smartphones.
  6. So far we have one example: Motorola devices announced for the near future use NVIDIA Tegra 2. We might see more.

  7. Integrated vendors are faster to market.
  8. Is it just coincidence that Apple, and Samsung have devices in market and that they make their own application processors I house? Although iPad and Galaxy Tab are based on Cortex A8 parts, and the products announced by other major vendors use Cortex A9 parts, the early mover advantage is undeniable.

Conclusion:
The application processor market is undergoing a big realignment. Performance and design wins in the next year or two will lay the foundation for continued success. ARM architecture still reins supreme in smartphones and tablets. I will delve into the increasing competition for the ARM ecosystem from MIPS, SH in a future post. Competition has become fierce among ARM based SoC vendors. Performance in Tablets will affect attractiveness in smartphones.

Notes:
1. Application processor for a majority of smartphones from this vendor.
2. Application processor for the first Tablet from this vendor.

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Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

February 10, 2011 at 10:01 pm

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