When Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said we might see $199 Tegra 3 tablets this summer, he wasn't speculating idly. Nvidia has revealed that it's working on just such a tablet: Kai. At the company's annual meeting of investors last week, VP Rob Csonger revealed the idea, and explained Kai isn't just a piece of hardware, but a plan to democratize its quad-core Tegra 3 system-on-chip. Nvidia wants to offer Android 4.0 tablets that are more powerful than the Kindle Fire at the same price point, he said:
Our strategy on Android is simply to enable quad-core tablets running Android Ice Cream Sandwich to be developed and brought out to market at the $199 price point, and the way we do that is a platform we've developed called Kai. So this uses a lot of the secret sauce that's inside Tegra 3 to allow you to develop a tablet at a much lower cost, by using a lot of innovation that we've developed to reduce the power that's used by the display and use lower cost components within the tablet.
Does that make Kai a reference design? Probably yes, but we wouldn't be surprised if it's also a consumer product. Nvidia and Asus teamed up at CES 2012 to introduce a quad-core tablet with a then-unheard-of $250 price point, the ME370T, and it's a dead ringer for the Kai in the picture above. We haven't heard a thing about the ME370T since CES, but perhaps it's on the way, and if we're lucky, it's the first of a whole new wave of affordable Tegra 3 slates. Maybe Google's Nexus tablet will be among them.
Update: Nvidia didn't have much to add when we asked them about Kai, but told us that devices are already inbound: "Customers are using the Kai platform to build Tegra 3 tablets now."
Update 2: At the company's 2012 investor day, Nvidia revealed a few more hints. Kai will use cheaper DDR3L memory — "we're the only SOC in production that supports DDR3L," said Nvidia — and both the DirectTouch and Prism low-power display technologies that the company announced at CES. We should see the first tablets on sale this summer, the company said.