A Major Win for NVIDIA

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This day has been a long time coming for chipmaker NVIDIA (NAS: NVDA) .

Back in May of last year, the company announced that it was acquiring British baseband specialist Icera for a hefty $367 million, which was NVIDIA's largest purchase ever. The ultimate end goal for the purchase was clear: integrating a baseband directly into its Tegra line of mobile processors. Rival Qualcomm (NAS: QCOM) has always had a knack for integrating key functionalities into its SoCs, helping it score design wins for the added efficiencies.

The company has now announced the first smartphone whose core processing capabilities are powered solely by NVIDIA chips, using a dual-core Tegra 2 processor and an NVIDIA Icera modem that includes baseband and RF processors. The device is the ZTE Mimosa X, which runs Google Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, and is slated for a second-quarter launch.

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Source: NVIDIA press release. ZTE Mimosa X.

Source: NVIDIA press release. ZTE Mimosa X.

Scoring this win is a solid milestone for NVIDIA, as for the first time it will provide both the applications processor and the baseband modem, leveraging the Icera acquisition. The two components are still discrete and are yet to be integrated, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Several months after the Icera news last year, NVIDIA laid out its roadmap for its Tegra chips, complete with their super-powered monikers. For NVIDIA, this year will be predominantly a quad-core Tegra 3 affair, codenamed "Kal-El" after Superman. Next up is "Wayne," as in Bruce Wayne, but then comes "Grey," for X-Men's Jean Grey.

Grey will be the first Tegra chip to fully integrate Icera baseband technology and is scheduled for release late this year, complete with 3G and 4G LTE capabilities. Qualcomm won't be sitting still, though, as it's also aiming for integrated 4G LTE in its Snapdragons this year, while it's long had 3G integration down pat.

That day for an integrated baseband is an even longer time coming for NVIDIA, but it'll be momentous when it does.

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At the time this article was published Fool contributorEvan Niuhas sold bullish put spreads on Qualcomm, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of NVIDIA and Google and writing puts in NVIDIA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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