I just got back from Nvidia’s Austin office, where I saw a demo PC running the ION platform that marries a GeForce 9400 GPU with the more powerful of the Intel Atom processors. ION seemed like a sweet deal when Nvidia launched it in December, and seems even better now that I know it doesn’t add much to the price of the netbook (only $20-$40), according to Brian Burke, the Nvidia spokesman interviewed below. With such a small difference in cost, why wouldn’t you try to get a full-featured PC in a tiny form factor? There is the issue of battery life. I’m not sure how a GPU that can suck 14 watts at full power can lead to the “comparable” battery life on a netbook that Nvidia’s engineers claim, but I’m willing to wait until summer to see it in person, when designs featuring ION are due to appear. With ION, Nvidia is playing both sides of the mobile computing split. It has a platform for Intel’s x86 architecture in ION, and something for the ARM crowd with its (super low-power) Tegra platform designed for handsets and mobile Internet devices. Now we just have to wait and see if device makers buy into either.