Nvidia spills beans on K1

Nvidia is telling the world+dog about its K1 mobile chip which it claims will provided beefed-up graphics for mobile gadgets and cars.

For those who came in late the K1 is Nvidia’s first mobile chip to incorporate the Kepler graphics technology.

Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang told reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show was trying to talk up the companies move into mobile as if it was all part of the cunning plan and not a response to declining PC sales.

He said that Nvidia hoped that adding cutting-edge graphics technology to its mobile chips will entice more manufacturers and consumers to see tablets as viable alternatives to consoles for playing high-end games like first-person shooters.

Huang claimed that the K1 brought mobile computing to the same level as desktop computing and the same level as supercomputing. You have to admire Huang’s hyperbole, which sometimes is so big he can take a skiing holiday on its upper slopes.

Nvidia has not had much luck in mobiles. Its Tegra 4 processors are used in Microsoft Surface 2 tablet and a smartphone made by Xiaomi in China, but generally it has not gone anywhere given the amount the company spends in R&D.

In the third quarter, sales from Nvidia’s Tegra mobile chips fell 54 percent and sales from its PC graphics chips, which account for the majority of the company’s total revenue, declined 2 percent.

K1 was previously codenamed Logan, an alias of the comic book superhero Wolverine and not a Sandman on the run from turning 30.

An automotive version of the chip will be ideal for camera-based computation in future self-driving cars with applications like pedestrian detection and collision avoidance, Huang said.

Nvidia’s Tegra K1 lineup will also include a version with 64-bit features.

A 32-bit version of the K1 chip to appear in devices in the first half of 2014, with the 64-bit chip appearing later in the year.

Nvidia is hoping that the car industry and cloud computing will fuel future growth. It has made deals with Audi, BMW and Tesla to use Tegra chips in dashboard entertainment and navigation systems.

One thing you will not find Huang mentioning is the handheld gaming device called Shield, which appears this time last year. Nvidia has not said how many Shield devices it has shipped since their launch in July.