A Look at NVIDIA’s Next Generation ION

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     March 1, 2010

Why ION, Why Now?

Less than two years ago, the term netbook had just begun to catch on with a few who were aware they existed from some pioneering companies like ASUS and MSI. These first products didn’t exactly feature the best battery time or performance but they utilized Intel’s new Atom processor to good effect. Billed as inexpensive and “good enough” for all the basic tasks most consumers use their PCs for, it wasn’t long before large retail store chains came calling and popularity surged. Not content to sit idly by while competitors raked in the profits, other companies soon joined the netbook craze and suddenly it seemed like every company had a competing solution. It wasn’t long after that small form factor nettops (small, low power desktops) began seeing the light of day as well. However, as the netbook and nettop markets have matured, so too have people’s expectations regarding what they want these products to do.

Back at the end of 2007, resource -hogging items like HD YouTube videos were simply glimmers in the eyes of their developers but as the time ticked on, things soon changed. Basically, as technology has progressed, program developers have been able to release applications that continue to tax even the best of systems. It’s up to companies like NVIDIA, Intel and AMD to continually stay ahead of this technology curve by offering ever more advanced solutions.

One thing that NVIDIA is banking on is the apparently increasing popularity of the netbook market and the increasing demand of today’s computing experience. According to their market research figures, the globale netbook market (not including “fringe” products like nettops) is slated to go above 55 million units sold in 2012 which does sound like an impressive number. However, this is still a vastly smaller portion of the overall mobile computing market when compared to the exposure of standard notebook computers.

If we put this into context though since if we consider how long netbooks have been around versus standard notebooks, this uptake is nothing short of remarkable. With their current generation ION firmly entrenched NVIDIA is in a great position to be the default choice if consumers want something slightly above your run-of-the-mill $299 netbook. Think of it: if NVIDIA is able to sell an ION in one of every five netbooks sold by 2012, they could potentially move up to 10 million units. That’s not bad at all considering the strength of their current notebook market penetration.

So why does NVIDIA think you will want a netbook packing an ION processor? Basically, their stance has always been one which clearly states that standard netbooks serve their purpose very well but are limited in their uses. From experience, many of us know that outside of some basic computing tasks, a lower-end netbook or Atom-based SFF PC simply fails to deliver in many ways. What ION does is offer a richer multimedia experience primarily for people on the go who want functionality outside of browsing some basic websites and writing in a Word document.

The first generation ION had come into the market at what seemed to have been a perfect time; the needs of consumers were slowly moving towards high-definition standards along with interactive media and the Atom processors at that time just couldn’t give an optimal online experience. While the needs of netbook and nettop users haven’t changed much since ION was first announced, applications have become even more demanding and for this and other reasons, NVIDIA evolved their small powerhouse as well. This next generation processor will follow closely in the footsteps of the original chip but will do so while consuming less power and offering better performance in applications many of us take for granted. Is this what netbook users really want? NVIDIA sure thinks so.

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