Nvidia's Tiny Tegra Powers Zune HD

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based graphics chip maker won over Microsoft with its Tegra system-on-a-chip platform -- that tiny GPU-ARM processor combo powers the new Zune HD. Nvidia calls Tegra "the world's first HD mobile processor."

In addition to consumer electronics devices like the Zune, Nvidia is lining up Tegra for an ultra-low power category of thin and light netbooks, such as the forthcoming Mobbinova N910. A smartphone built on Tegra is "in the works," according to Bill Henry, Nvidia's general manager of mobile Internet products.

Meanwhile, Nvidia's slightly larger Ion graphics platform has turned up in new netbooks by Hewlett-Packard, Samsung and Lenovo after debuting earlier this year in ultra-small desktop PCs -- or "nettops" -- like the Acer Aspire Revo.

Nvidia and HP this week unveiled the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computing giant's new HP Mini 311, an 11.6-inch netbook built on the Ion graphics platform with an Intel Atom N270 central processor. The HP Mini 311 is priced at $399.

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With the first wave of netbooks mostly featuring Intel's own integrated graphics solutions, Nvidia last year saw an opportunity to build a competitive hardware platform for netbooks around its GeForce 9400M graphics processor. And despite some dismissive claims from Intel about the marketability of Ion, Nvidia clearly has a winner on its hands.