Nvidia has announced a new product in its Android-based Shield gaming device ecosystem, a Tegra K1 equipped gaming tablet. This follows on from the company's launch of the Shield handheld console. Both devices will use the same Nvidia forked version of Android and have access to Google Play store for content.
The Shield tablet is targeted at gamers, features an 8" screen, full HD display, front-facing speakers and an optional cover that both protects the screen and can be used as a stand to support the device. To transform the tablet form factor into more of a dedicated games device machine, Nvidia is also offering the optional Shield wireless controller, which has been designed to use low latency Wi-Fi Direct connectivity, and which improves on the latency of other standard Bluetooth controllers. The tablet offers an HDMI 1.4 out for connection to larger screens and Nvidia's console mode, where the user interface is made more usable on the TV screen.
The Shield tablet comes with either Wi-Fi connectivity, or Wi-Fi and LTE. It’s available first in a 16GB Wi-Fi-only version, with MicroSD support up to 128GB, for $299/€299/£239.99 and will be available at the end of July starting in the US. The 32GB LTE version will retail at $399/€399/ £299.99 when it becomes available at a later date. The Shield wireless controller retails for $59/£49.99. The Shield tablet cover retails for $39. Preorders in the United States are available at shield.nvidia.com, Amazon, Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, GameStop, Micro Center, Newegg and Tiger Direct, and in Canada at Canada Computers, Memory Express, NCIX and ThinkGeek. The tablet was at number 17 in the top sellers list on Amazon.com on 25th July.
First and foremost, Nvidia is a chipset and GPU company that derives a significant share of its revenues from products aimed at gamers. Its installed base of GeForce GPUs runs into the 10s of millions, of which a share are directly known to the company through its GeForce Experience support offering. A large majority of consumers that use Nvidia's graphics technology operate on the PC platform, but as gamers increasingly share their gaming time with other smart devices including tablets, Nvidia is looking to connect the dots between its PC graphics and high-end Tegra chip business and also shift up the value chain to look for more commercial opportunities.
The Shield Tablet reflects this ambition and has multiple targets:
Our View of Its Strengths and Weaknesses
Nvidia's Consumer Ecosystem: Nvidia has 40 million direct consumer relationships through its GeForce Experience support offering - it can leverage these relationships to market the Shield Tablet. However, while this network of consumers is a useful starting point, Nvidia has no direct payment and billing relationship with these GeForce users, which undermines their value.
Pricing: Compared to other gaming tablets on the market, the price at $299/€299/£229 for the Wi-Fi version appears well pitched. We have already seen Xiaomi's Tegra K1-based MiPad enter the market at a moderately lower price point, but it is not curated for the gamer in the same way as the Shield Tablet is. However, pricing alone is not enough to entice adopters if the value proposition across content and services does not complete the picture for the consumer.
Content and Services: One major weakness of the Shield ecosystem is the lack of desirable games exclusives. Android games playable on the TV or ports of old PC games are not enough to sell this device to the dedicated gamer. The ability to stream games from a GeForce GTX equipped PC over home Wi-Fi via the device to the TV - in the same way the Shield console already does - is attractive, but only to a small sub-segment of PC gamers. If Nvidia can extend its cloud gaming proposition beyond a select beta test in California, then this would widen the desirability significantly.
Sales Channels: Nvidia's direct to consumer sales strategy is much less developed in markets outside North America. The company has significant work to do to build out its capability here.
Will it sell?
We do not believe that the Shield Tablet is a mass market proposition as it stands. Nvidia aims to serve what is a relatively niche consumer that is active in PC gaming and that wants to take some of that rich gaming experience to the tablet space. On the basis of functionality, flexibility and sales territory availability, Shield Tablet is expected to sell more than its cousin, the Shield Handheld.
In terms of its ability to disrupt the TV gaming space and the traditional console players, we do not expect it to trouble these platforms in its current guise. Extending the availability of Nvidia's GRID-based streaming games solutions to wider geographies and additional investment in content exclusives beyond those available today would make the product significantly more attractive to a wider group of consumers.