Tegra has been hard pressed for design wins in tablets, but Nvidia promises the SoC has a future with the Surface 2 and Nvidia Tab.

IMG 3698 1024x682 The future of Tegra in tablets is in the Surface 2 and Nvidia Tab

Rewind for a moment to mid-2012.

Back in May of that year Nvidia was at the height of its promotion of Project Kai, its push to bring the market mid-priced tablets using its Tegra 3 platform. This project came to fruition with the Nexus 7, as Nvidia provided the key component — a cheap but performance oriented SoC — to ASUS and Google to let the two companies bring the Nexus 7 to market at the target price of $199.

Fast forward to today, and the Nexus project is over for Nvidia. The 2013 version of the Nexus 7 swapped Tegra for Snapdragon, leaving Nvidia’s mobile division without a flagship device.

So what’s an out of luck SoC maker to do?

Nvidia had hoped that Microsoft’s Surface tablet would be a hit, and, along with the Nexus 7 would boost the earnings of the Tegra division into the stratosphere. While bringing the Windows platform to the ARM ecosystem seemed like a good idea, in execution it was an abysmal failure.

But in the absence of an anchor in Nexus, betting big on the Surface is now one part of Nvidia’s strategy. After all it needs something, and a third-tier Toshiba tablet isn’t going to cut it.

“Now we’re going to bring it with the second-generation Surface,” CEO Jen Hsun Huang told CNET. “We’re working really hard on it, and we hope that it’s going to be a big success.”

With Intel about to offer x86 SoCs that rival ARM in power performance, it seems odd that Microsoft would embrace the very thing that made the Surface a $900 million writedown in the first place — lack of compatibility with x86.

But should the Surface fail again, Nvidia is insulating its Tegra unit from the possibility by venturing into the world of making its own brand of tablets.

Citing a number of Chinese gadget blogs, The Verge reports that Shenzhen Homecare Technology is the most likely candidate for the ODM role in the Nvidia Tab project. Vegre spotted a picture of Nvidia’s VP China in a meeting next to a partially censored whiteboard that calls out the Nexus 7 and looks to compare something to it.

Nvidia filed a trademark for “Tegra Tab” in April. That alone isn’t indicative of an impending launch, but considering the flurry of activity from Shenzhen it’s safe to say that something very well might be in the works.

Sources: CNET, The Verge