NVIDIA Eschews Android and Linux, Prefers Windows for Tegra

Jun 21, 2009

NVIDIA sees itself obliged to openly announce its preference for Windows CE for its new Tegra platform. This news alone would be suspicious if it weren't for the graphics chipmaker's not so subtle dig at Android and Linux.

Mike Rayfield, general manager of NVIDIA's mobile business unit, shot against Android and Linux in a June 17 interview with ComputerWorld. To the question how things were with Android on the Tegra platform, he responded that NVIDIA chose to work with Windows CE first because it "is a rock-solid operating system that has been shipped billions of times." Not only that, but Windows CE has a "low memory footprint and a good collection of apps."

Despite NVIDIA still working with Google to accelerate Android, Rayfield felt that Linux-based Android is optimized mainly for mobile phone displays. In his view it also uses the relatively popular Java for graphics rendering, which doesn't adapt well to netbook displays or NVIDIA graphics acceleration. "There's no hardware acceleration. It's all software," claimed Rayfield. An odd statement seeing that developing a graphics acceleration driver (in this case via Java OpenGL) is just such an assignment for a graphics chipmaker, which NVIDIA has no trouble doing for Windows CE. Rayfield, dismissively, isn't counting on a competitive Android version for smartbooks until about 2010.

Mobile flavors for netbooks such as Moblin or Ubuntu Netbook Remix are even less favored than Android in Rayfield's view. "The world soundly rejected the first netbooks that came out with Linux," he said. "Printers didn't work, and devices didn't get recognized. The whole thing was a mess."

Tegra integrates a 750-MHz ARM-11 core as CPU with NVIDIA graphics responsible for 3D and video decoding and encoding. According to NVIDIA, a Tegra smartbook can easily play 10 hours of HD videos and has no problem with 1080p resolution on computationally expensive H.264 video, where many single-core CPUs struggle over 3 GHz. What might be interesting particularly for the movie industry is Rayfield's comment about Blu-ray that, "it won't be long before consumers, rather than re-ripping Blu-ray movies to watch on different devices, will expect to be able to carry a single, HD-quality version of their videos around with them for easy sharing and viewing on large-screen TVs."

Over the next years 27 manufacturers should be producing 42 devices with Tegra, 26 of them for smartbooks or tablet PCs. NVIDIA expects Tegra to make up half of its sales "very soon," with a greatly performance-enhanced next generation due out early next year. 2011 should show a performance boost by a factor of 10. What does Intel make of that?

COMMENTS: As to rumors that Microsoft's next Zune HD generation will run on Tegra, Rayfield's response was, "Microsoft hasn't confirmed that ... so until they comment, I can't." One can only take this to substantiate the rumor, after all. Could it be one hand feeds the other, along the lines of "We'll take your chip and you sing praises to Windows CE"? If NVIDIA is jumping on the "It's Better with Windows" bandwagon, like recently Asus, things tend to become clear. NVIDIA's executive board may well be churning up strategic plans to counter threats from Intel's Larabee and AMT's ATI: NVIDIA has no CPUs to offer with their graphics chips in a favorable package for PC makers. Intel's and AMD's approaches to marrying CPU with GPU seem to be denied "greentech" NVIDIA. They certainly have no wish to end up like RealPlayer: Windows had Media, Mac OS had QuickTime, RealPlayer had no operating system. Users had to install it separately, which ended up killing the company. What a juicy situation a strong Microsoft partnership would be, especially when the software giant not only buys your chips for its Zune, but helps you grow in a lucrative smartbook market.

Even Microsoft urgently needs a partner in the smartbook sector that lauds its Windows CE. Unlike for the x86 netbook market, Microsoft can, thanks to the ARM smartbook architecture, show neither a massive software pool nor driver support for every device -- the main argument of x86 up to now for Windows. Linux, on the other hand, runs unimpaired on ARM because of its open source and portable programmed drivers and software -- and is the preferred solution in the smartbook market, if testimonials from manufacturers are any gauge.

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  • i think it is good

    tegra & windows ce vs tegra & linux

    i think it is better they start with tegra & wince... that way the can challenge Intel x86 immediately with a mass market product that hopefully will blow away outdated x86 arch.

    then there will be lots of cheap hardware for us to install linux/bsd/unix etc on.

    and really it is only fanboys who want to buy a linux phone/mid etc... why not just install your fav. dist. on available hardware and work with your fav. community to tweak it.
  • there's better ARM SOCs

    I couldn't care less what NVIDIA's Tegra does or doesn't support. Personally I think Win CE is so outdated, its graphics really look like crap and it's not suited for any real work. It might be OK as a GPS platform but other than that .... You can't even begin to compare it with Linux which has tons of apps and drivers compared to it.
    Why isn't it relevant what Tegra can do ? Because it's last year's stuff right now. ARM introduce the new Cortex A8 architecture and then there's the Snapdragon and here comes NVIDIA with Tegra's ARM 11 core. That's just outdated.
    So in conclusion ARM 11 + Win CE = outdated crap. But maybe we'll be able to get them cheap at a discount or something and maybe even install some Linux. That would be nice.
  • No Android driver? Why Android?

    >Nvidia does not have a driver for Android, but they do have a driver for WinCE...

    Why is Android now the presumptive Linux platform for appliances? The answer, of course, is Google's name recognition. And as far as Android's concerned, Nvidia has a point here. If nvidia is selling high-end graphics and Android doesn't do high-end graphics, they're out of luck.

    I imagine it would be no problem for nvidia to port their X driver to the ARM processor and have a Linux driver. But does Android even use X? If so, does it support hardware accelleration?

    Of course, that neatly sidesteps the issue. All the 'netbook remix' Linux distros support X accellerated graphics and could easily beat out WinCE on features. So who's pushing Android as the Linux appliance OS? Maybe they (we) should push something else.

    It seems the Google name and the 'single platform' promise it implies are very compelling to device manufacturers. I'm assuming that's where all the Android buzz is coming from. Maybe nvidia (and we linux fans) could take a page from the Moblin playbook and beat Intel at their own game. Moblin's appeal is also it's 'standard' netbook-appropriate UI (even when built on top of different distros). And the Intel name doesn't hurt the buzz either.
  • Backroom deals and time is money

    Everybody is in a time crunch. Nvidia does not have a driver for Android, but they do have a driver for WinCE. It will cost them a large amount of time/money to develop the Android driver. If they support WinCE and it takes off, then they can profit without a large investment in time/money to write the Android driver.
    I'm sure this point has been pushed by MS with additional incentive(s) in the form of cash, etc.

    I think Nvidia should focus on Linux and Android, because it is the future. MS keeps making mistakes and savvy people are becoming wary of the giants blunders. GNU/Linux does everything I want with very little drama. That is what people really want, stability.
  • Bought a nvidia card

    I just bought an nvidia card. After a couple or so years with Radeon X800 and experiencing and hearing problems with both their proprietary and the Xorg free driver this has proved to justify what many have said: Nvidia has best video support for Linux.

    Their drivers may be proprietary, but they employ people to work on them and make them work WELL. Did you know they also offer full drivers for FreeBSD and OpenSolaris? Of course, it's business reasons mostly, as I hear, because companies like Pixar tend to use these obscure OS's to do video rendering and they're Nvidia customers. It doesn't change the fact that this gives us incredible video performance on Linux.

    As for this being FUD, it may well be.. but after years yammering through the "Linux Community" that kind of an accusation is completely moot. Linux crowd is responsible for just as much FUD as both Microsoft, Nvidia and everyone else combined. They not only spread anti-MS FUD, but anti-Linux FUD FOR MS, without even realizing it.

    Freedom is not self-sacrifice. Don't sacrifice your user experience for a vague ideal nobody is honest about.
  • Oh, well ...

    I was about to buy an NVIDIA card for my newly built linux home computer. I guess I'm still in the market for a video card ...
  • Scared white

    I think Microsoft is scared white. The netbook wars made their OEM license incomes from small laptops drop like a stone. In comes ARM coupled with SnapDragon that puts very long battery times out of their reach and into the hands of Android and Moblin. Its a very fine line Microsoft is threaing as they bitchslap their underlings into submission. Nvidia has to compete with products already on the market with low prices and also take on new competition. Add to this mess that there are Mips ports of Android coming in and you have very interesting times ahead.

    WinCE sucks donkey so you know anyone singing its praise does that with a gun at their head.
  • FUD?!

    Smells like FUD and the wish to stay relevant in the future
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