Nvidia to Android: We’re Just Not That Into You

Well, the proverbial ink hadn’t even dried on our recent column about smartbooks and ARM when Nvidia came around and doused the excitement with a bucket of ice water.

The prospect of Linux in general or Android in particular running on an ARM smartbook has had many in the blogosphere salivating, but Nvidia’s Mike Rayfield recently said his company prefers Microsoft’s Windows CE over Android for that purpose.

CE “is a rock-solid operating system that has been shipped billions of times,” Rayfield told Computerworld; it also has a “low memory footprint and a good collection of apps.”

Moving to Mordor?

Android, on the other hand, still has a rough user interface, Rayfield reportedly said.

Nvidia isn’t the only company to point out Android’s shortcomings, of course, as Computerworld also noted not long ago. But apparently, Nvidia is even working with Microsoft to optimize Windows CE for its Tegra system on a chip, according to the more recent news.

Such a move might make sense to Nvidia; for Linux aficionados, however, it’s tantamount to setting up shop in Mordor and partnering with Sauron.

‘It’s Had a *Little* More Time’

“So you’re saying software *designed* for mobile phones doesn’t work as well on a little computerlike device as software which was designed for little computerlike devices?” began MBCook on Slashdot,where more than 200 comments appeared on the topic in short order. “Wow. Amazing. Incredible. And they’re the same age too!

“No, wait, Windows CE is *13 years old,*” he pointed out. “It’s had a *little* more time to design the window manager for different screen sizes.”

Regarding CE, “let’s not forget that it still sucks,” added nicolas.kassis. “I hoped they would see that and go, ‘Geez, maybe we can help this new guy out so that maybe they will get us out of this lame-ass ‘no one wants these things because windows CE sucks’ issue.”

‘Writing This Is Hurting Me’

The fact that Android is still new “is a perfectly valid excuse, but in a here-and-now business sense, Nvidia just has to go with what works … I guess,” added Xocet_00. “Writing this is hurting me. I really, really hate Windows CE.”

Then again: “Isn’t this Nvidia opinion somehow influenced by having Microsoft as customer for their Tegra chips going to upcoming Zune HD?” pointed out Anonymous Coward.

Even more so: “Maybe I don’t get it, but this looks like a concerted FUD campaign against Android,” xlotlu charged.

LinuxInsider couldn’t resist taking to the streets of the blogosphere in search of more insight.

‘Kicking and Screaming’

“You can expect Nvidia to continue to support Microsoft at every turn,” Montreal consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told LinuxInsider. “This is not a company that really gets open source, and the only reason they support open source drivers for their motherboards is that the reverse-engineered version ended up being an order of magnitude better than their own.”

In other words, “this is a company that got dragged kicking and screaming into the open source world, and they really don’t want to be here,” Mack opined.

Given time, “I’m sure Android will support more, but 1024x768x24bpp support in the interface isn’t very important when your single officially supported device can’t display that,” MBCook told LinuxInsider.

Meanwhile, “I’m rather excited about where Android is going,” he said.

‘I’m a Little Skeptical’

“As a computer enthusiast, Android appeals to me,” MBCook explained. “I like that I could write my own widgets, pop up a terminal and SSH to fix a Web server, or just tinker in Python to kill time. I don’t think we’ll ever reach a point where most users do that, but that’s OK. As long as some do, they’ll make neat software and pass it on to users.”

As for the idea of putting Android on netbooks or other devices, however, “I’m a little skeptical of that,” MBCook admitted. “I guess it depends on how you see Android. I think for most average consumers, Android would be appliance-like. If it’s on your netbook, then you can use it for surfing and other built-in tasks, but it’s not going to be a general computer.”

Those who advocate Android as a possible contender for the Linux desktop — or at least the limited desktop — “may be thinking of the MySQL approach: start small and just keep pushing up in abilities,” he explained, “but they risk people’s first reactions to Linux being this limited little cage.”

10-Second Boot Time

Speaking of improving capabilities, we would be remiss not to mention recent news that Canonical has said its goal for Ubuntu 10.04 in 2010 is to reduce boot time to 10 seconds.

That, in turn, would of course make the OS more attractive for netbooks and other portable applications — to return to our original theme — which might explain at least some of the 1,000-plus Diggs and hundreds of comments that greeted the news when it came out on Ars Technica, as well as on Digg and beyond.

“It is good to see Ubuntu take advantage of the work donated by Intel,” Mack said. “For far too long, we have tolerated ever-slowing boot times, and I’m very glad someone has finally done some serious work to counter that.”

‘A Much Healthier Ecosystem’

Particularly on machines with RAID 1, “tons of RAM,” multiple cores or high clock speeds, “parallel processing can be exploited to telescope the boot process,” blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider.

“GNU / Linux, being quite modular, provides many avenues ranging from parallelizing the scripts to peeling in an image from disc / SSD storage much as we do with resume from disc,” Pogson explained. “Splashtop does it in 5 seconds. Ten seconds should be doable for a general-purpose OS.”

Pogson just finished a contract “where people had endured 2-minute boots of XP for years on 5-year-old PCs,” he said. “I showed them how 10-year-old machines could boot up in half the time with GNU/Linux.

“All this energy spent improving the GNU/Linux system is a sure sign that GNU/Linux is a much healthier ecosystem than that other OS, where people sue others over boot times,” Pogson concluded. “GNU/Linux is ready to compete on price and performance. That other OS is not.”

1 Comment

  • I want to start off by saying I like Android, I think it and WebOS (I’d much rather have an Android phone than an iphone any day) are the two smartphone OS’ that have a chance to be as good if not better than iphone OSX. I also agree that Windows Mobile is lacking. Companies try and put a skin on it and it looks better, but it ends up still being Windows Mobile…slow and if you have to go beyond the skin, old looking.

    Now here is what I also see (and hope). Microsoft knows this and like with Windows 7 they know they have to do something about it. I think WM 6.5 is going to be a little better, but still suck but I think WM 7 is gong to shine. If MS is smart they are doing a full re-write of the OS and they’re going to be a contender. We’ll see what happens in 2010.

    I think you’re right, Nvidia doesn’t really want to do open source. Its easier to just work on drivers for Microsoft and OSX. Nvidia is even getting out of making chipsets for AMD processors (thats because AMD bought ATI but still). I think as time goes on if Android shows that it can be strong then Nvidia will come around. Right now Android doesn’t have a lot of handsets, and they don’t know if it’ll work well in the netbook arena. I think Nvidia wants to be sure before they jump in. They don’t want to do open source but if they see its profitable, then they will.

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