LAS VEGAS—Texas Instruments Inc. confirmed Friday (Jan. 7) that its OMAP 4430 is the applications processor inside the forthcoming BlackBerry Playbook tablet from Research in Motion Inc.
The disclosure marks the first publicly confirmed success for TI's OMAP on the red-hot tablet front. But Brian Carlson, TI's OMAP product line manager, said the company has other tablet design wins that it cannot publicly disclose at this time.
As expected, tablets in the mode of Apple Inc.'s iPad emerged as the star product at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the organizer of CES, an estimated 80 tablet products were shown at the show by various vendors. Some estimates are even higher.
The buzz generated by iPad and new competitors has established a new high-stakes battleground for TI and competitors. Tablets showcased at CES utilize processors made by Intel's Atom, Qualcomm's Snapdragon, Nvidia's Tegra 2, Marvell's Armada and others.
OMAP 4430 is a 45-nm, 1-GHz processor with two ARM Cortex-A9 cores. Carlson said many of the applications processors for tablets may seem similar at first glance but that "under the hood" customers find wide differentiation. He said OMAP's MShield mobile security technology, which enhances the security to protect content, transactions and network access, was a key reason that RIM selected the device for PlayBook.
RIM's core strength in the smartphone market lies with its sales to enterprises, where security is paramount. The company is expected to emphasize encryption and other security features in the PlayBook in hopes of getting strong enterprise business in tablets as well. "They want end-to-end security all the way through," Carlson said.
RIM has been publicly discussing PlayBook for several months and showed off a prototype of the device last September. At CES, the section of RIM's booth dedicated to PlayBook demonstrations was often jam packed. The device, which is scheduled to be available later this quarter, features a 7-inch WSVGA multi-touch screen and will be available in 16-, 32- and 64-GB configurations. The CES demo emphasized the PlayBook's ability to run multiple applications simultaneously, rather than freezing applications not in use like other tablets are said to do.
RIM showcased its forthcoming BlackBerry Playbook tablet at CES.
Carlson said it is his personal belief that the market will ultimately not support the entire slew of tablets that are now or soon will be on the market. Both he and Eran Sandhaus, marketing director for TI's wireless connectivity solutions business unit, said they expect major offerings from established players to thrive, but that "me-too" products from smaller companies that did not offer sufficient differentiation would have a hard time cracking the market.
"This is a game for the big guys," Sandhaus said.
"If you are going to come out with a 'me too' product, I don't think you have much of a chance," Carlson added.
Impressive design win for TI. The UI of the playbook from the demos seemed pretty smooth. But how does it compare with Tegra 2? IIRC 4430 has powerVR graphics compared to Tegra's nVidia GPU,which is supposedly better. Also why 45nm? Qualcomm is rolling out 2-core snapdragons @ 28nm. IMO TI should do the same.
Nvidia's Tegra 2 also has a dual-core ARM Cortex-9 and what Nvidia calls an ultra-low-power GeForce GPU that offers "outstanding mobile 3D game playability and a visually engaging, highly-responsive 3D user interface" according to Nvidia. It's a 40-nm chip.
I'm sure TI plans to move down to 32- or 28-nm, but I'm not sure when.
2011 is going to be a year of tablet which means there will be a lot of tablet products launching in 2011. Who's going to stay for another year? Maybe, Carlson is right. Maybe, the one who can build a niche feature with a reasonable price will stay. Or tablet's market will just be like another laptop market. There are companies who build quality product and there are companies who build reasonably priced product. In any cases, consumers benefit.
RIM is lookng big global picture.
The smaller form factor is an advantage in high growth Asia and China where people tend to be of smaller stature, smaller hands etc... Also if I'm a business person who'll be forced to carry both a laptop and a tablet in my travels, the smaller, lighter tablet will be more attractive in my shoulder bag.