Nvidia has quietly introduced a new Ion integrated graphics processor today. Dubbed Ion LE, this entry-level version of Nvidia’s netbook graphics chip is pretty much identical to its older sibling, except it only supports DirectX 9 and not the Ion’s DirectX 10. The idea, of course, is to lower costs while still providing superior performance compared to Intel’s lackluster 945GSE chipset and even the newer GN40 part.

Netbooks are meant to be low cost and thus the price disparity with Intel’s netbook platform hurts Ion adoption and sales. In this regard we could say Nvidia’s move makes sense. With Windows 7 just weeks away from launch, however, the question for this new chipset is how long XP will survive on the netbook scene.

Both Windows Vista and 7 may still run on a system without a DX10-capable graphics chip, but not without taking a performance hit and losing some eye candy. It seems unlikely any user would want an Ion LE powered system with any operating system other than XP on it – and perhaps Linux but its market presence is too small to make a difference for Nvidia.