Tablets using Google's Android platform could overtake Apple Inc's red-hot iPad within three years as improved versions and more applications hit the market, the head of chip designer Nvidia said.

Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang told the Reuters Technology Summit in New York on Monday that tablets using new versions of Android, including Honeycomb, would outsell iPads as developers create more games and other software to use on them.

The Android phone took only two and a half years to achieve the momentum that we're talking about. I would expect the same thing on Honeycomb tablets, said Huang, a sportscar enthusiast and cofounder of Nvidia.

The maker of graphics chips for PCs became a Wall Street darling this year with the launch of its Tegra 2 processors, establishing it as a major player in high-end smartphones and tablets by manufacturers like Samsung and Motorola Mobility.

But with stiff competition from the iPad 2, some investors question whether Apple's lead in tablets is too big for Android-based tablets to catch up.

With its touchscreen and on-demand applications, the iPad set the standard for smartphones when it was launched in 2007.

But phones using Android, an operating system that Google hands out for free to manufacturers, now outsell iPhones and are increasingly popular in China and other emerging markets, Huang said.

He said Nvidia's next-generation mobile processor, code named Kal-El, has already won spots in several devices planned by major PC and phone manufacturers, including phones, tablets and low-powered laptops.

It's got to be at least 10. We have five major phone companies and we have five major PC (manufacturers), he said.

Kal-El will boast quad-core processing and higher-resolution graphics as competitors Qualcomm and Texas Instruments also gear up to launch new tablet chips.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich, editing by Matthew Lewis)