updated 06:45 pm EST, Wed February 15, 2012
NVIDIA Q4 disappoints but promises quick follow-up
NVIDIA in a mix of quarterly and yearly results disappointed investors even as it teased quad-core phones coming quickly. It expected its first fiscal quarter of the year to get it between $900 million and $930 million in revenue, under a $944 million average investor target, with a lower 49.5 percent margin on what it sold than the 52.1 percent most wanted. The company didn't say what prompted the particular outlook.
About $1 billion of revenue in 2012 would be purely owed to Tegra chips, company chief Jen-Hsun Huang said. Most of that would come in the back half of the year, however.
During the fiscal results call, Huang did say he expected the first Tegra 3 phones to ship in the ongoing quarter, which for NVIDIA ends in April. He likewise confirmed that they would be announced at Mobile World Congress late this month and thus ship just weeks after they were made public. There would be "vast growth" from Tegra 3 overall, he said.
None of the quad-core phones were named, although they could include the HTC One X, LG X3, and a future Fujitsu Arrows phone. All of them could clock as high as 1.5GHz, although they may throttle back when every core is active.
Huang further anticipated a new, pure cellular chipset for 2012. Nicknamed Gray, it would include 3G and LTE-based 4G in one chipset. No specific date was given, although he hoped to avoid shipping late into the year. The addition would let NVIDIA court companies that don't make their own cellular chipsets.
The combination of the lowered early 2012 expectations with Tegra 3 shipping suggests a possible lack of confidence that Android devices running Tegra 3 will be an immediate success. At least some of NVIDIA's partners will be faster than fellow Android supporters like Samsung in getting new phones out on the market. Whether or not it's perceived pressure from other Android proponents, Apple, or someone else wouldn't be clear at this stage.
Performance for NVIDIA's Tegra 2 line has been widely seen as disappointing, although not entirely under its control. In making the reference chip for Android 3.0 tablets, NVIDIA's fate in 2011 was inherently tied to Google. An assumption that Android tablets would quickly upset Apple's dominance with the iPad never bore fruit, leading to fewer Tegra 2 shipments.