During its tablet-centric CES keynote on Monday, Nvidia brought an Asus Transformer Prime on stage to run some demos and chat about the market. According to Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, tablets are the fastest growing consumer device in history, outpacing smartphones and netbooks in terms of year-one success. About 20 million units were sold in 2010 and that mushroomed to 60 million in 2011.
About 60% of those sales were iPads and the remaining chunk was divvied up between dozens of Android and Windows devices. Although the iPad has been a dominate force in the business since its arrival in 2009, Huang believes variety is the spice of life. He compared tablets to cars, noting that the latter market offers a diverse selection. That seems like a flawed comparison, but there you have it.
The Tegra 3-powered Transformer Prime running Ice Cream Sandwich (a world's first for tablets -- available today) was the centerpiece of Nvidia's presentation, which included several game demos and an appearance by celebrity gamer Johnathan "Fatality" Wendel. Most notably, Huang played Shadowgun in multiplayer LAN on the Transformer Prime and Wendel played Skyrim through a remote service.
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang holding Asus' 7-inch tablet
Huang eventually welcomed Asus CEO Jerry Shen on stage, who unveiled a 7-inch tablet (as rumored last week). The new device (purportedly called the Memo 370T) will be priced at only $249, runs Ice Cream Sandwich and houses a quad-core Tegra 3, a 1280x800 IPS display, 1GB of memory and an 8MP camera. Huang says it's nearly as powerful as the Transformer Prime. No details on availability yet.
Nvidia also dedicated some of its stage time to sharing a new Tegra 3-exclusive technology called Direct Touch, which promises to improve the responsiveness touch-based input. Instead of having a separate controller to process the analog-to-digital conversion of touch, the Tegra 3 can handle this function natively -- and it's better at it. Direct Touch can process triple the samples per second of a separate chip.