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Nvidia’s cheap, quad-core tablet platform forgets about the iPad, targets Kindle Fire instead

Nvidia KaiAccording to the latest set of figures from IDC, Apple increased its share of the tablet market during the first three months of 2012 by more than 10-percent, taking it from 54-percent at the end of 2011 to 68-percent at the beginning of April 2012.

Amazon, who has thus far mounted the only significant challenge to the iPad’s dominance with its Kindle Fire, saw its 16-percent share down to just 4-percent during the same period, allowing Samsung to pass it for second place. Of course, the iPad is sold worldwide and the Fire isn’t, but that’s still quite a gulf between the leader and the chasing pack.

While Samsung is content to target Apple, other companies have finally realized that to make any kind of impact in the tablet market, they need to compete almost solely on price. For everyone else then, the target has been moved from Apple’s back to Amazon’s.

Step forward Nvidia, makers of the Tegra-series of processors, who have made strides in mobile recently, seeing its chips used in 29 different phones this year, a considerable increase over the 18 in 2011.

Oh, Hai Kai

During its annual stockholders call, Nvidia talked about its plans to enable manufacturers to produce cheap-but-powerful Android tablets, by using a new platform named Kai.

Nvidia’s vice president drew attention to the Kindle Fire’s competitive price but “disappointing performance,” and said he wanted to bring “quad-core tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich … out to market at $199.”

The Kai platform is the key, and it apparently uses the same “secret sauce” found inside the Tegra 3, but with reduced power consumption to allow for the use of lower cost components.

Exactly what Kai is, outside of calling it a “platform,” or what capabilities it will have wasn’t made clear, but Nvidia told theverge.com that manufacturers are already hard at work incorporating it into tablets.

Kai-powered Google Nexus?

Any talk of a keenly priced Android tablet is quickly linked to Google at the moment, as it has been rumored for a while that the search giant intends to launch just such a product very soon, perhaps as part of a wider range of Nexus devices to sell through its own online store.

Could it be based on Nvidia’s Kai platform? There’s always a chance, but Nvidia specifically mentioned Ice Cream Sandwich, and it’s thought that whatever devices Google does unveil will run the next version of Android. However, using the previous version could be necessary to reach that $199 price tag.

Without any manufacturers being named as partners, and no release dates for the tablets said to be in production, Nvidia has only just begun teasing us with the Kai platform and the low-cost Android tablet wonders it could produce. But the prospect of a quad-core tablet for Kindle Fire money is a tempting one, and could be exactly what the Android tablet market needs.