Nvidia aims for late Q2 launch for Project Shield handheld

With the product, Nvidia aspires to enter the portable handheld gaming market

Nvidia hopes to make its ambitious break into the portable handheld gaming market in the next few months, the company's CEO said Tuesday.

Speaking to analysts on the sidelines of the company's annual developer conference, Jen Hsun Huang said he "hopes" the Shield will be available through retail outlets in the latter part of the second quarter.

The Shield was first unveiled at this year's International CES in January. It looks like an oversize gaming controller and combines an Android-based computer running his company's Tegra 4 processor with a 5-inch display. It brings a more immersive gaming experience than Android phones and can also run PC games via a home server.

"This is a consumer electronics product," he said in reaction to a question about how Nvidia will sell the device. "We'll try to be modest at first, we have no expectations and we expect you to have none, but we're going to sell it for profit."

Game device makers like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft typically sell hardware at a loss with the expectation of making a profit from ongoing sales of software.

With Shield, Nvidia has a different plan.

It expects the handheld will attract developers to produce better games for Android, some of which will appear in Nvidia's Tegra Zone gaming app store. That, in turn, should help the Tegra ecosystem and drive sales of cell phones based on Tegra.

"We're not the world's best device manufacturer yet, we're working with the world's best device manufacturers, and we're working on getting the price down," said Huang. "But it will be profitable, it will be nicely profitable."

Nvidia's plans are expected to be finely analyzed as they are further detailed because the console and dedicated-handheld video games market is going through something of a slump at the moment.

Sales of consoles have fallen off, partly in anticipation of new PlayStation and Xbox devices coming this year. Dedicated-handheld device sales are down because of competition from cell phones. The latest data from NPD Group shows hardware sales in the U.S. totaled US$244 million in February, down just over a third from the same month in 2012.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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