Will Android + NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

Will Android + NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

Summary: Microsoft and Intel won't be the same powerhouses in mobile that they were in PCs. The new leaders of the computing world will be Google Android and NVIDIA. Learn why.

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Microsoft and Intel have dominated the past three decades of the personal computing revolution. And, while both companies are doing just fine financially as more and more people across the globe get their hands on computers, the Wintel alliance (Microsoft Windows on Intel x86 chips) is about to move from the driver's seat to the back seat in the technology world.

Mobile computing is about to zoom past the PC ecosystem, and despite efforts by both Intel and Microsoft to adapt to the mobile world, neither of the two is poised for the same kind of success in mobile that they've experienced in PCs.

While you could argue that this change has already been happening for a couple years, 2011 will likely be the turning point. Here are four reasons why:

  1. People are spending a larger chunk of their computing time on their smartphones as these devices take on greater capabilities with more computing power and more applications
  2. Multitouch tablets are about to explode in 2011 by bringing computing to new demographics (children, elderly, and people afraid of computers) and new usage scenarios (field workers, conference room professionals, and more) with their simplicity and portability
  3. Smartphones will start to replace some PCs in 2011 with products like the Motorola Atrix 4G that are powered by dual core processors and can dock and function like full PCs (look for this trend to gain a lot more steam in 2012)
  4. In the developing world, mobile devices are the primary PCs and Web devices because they are much easier to get into the hands of average citizens and much easier to connect to the Internet (it's a lot more cost effective to put up cell towers than to lay a bunch of copper or fiber lines)

So, if Microsoft Windows and Intel chips are moving to the back seat, which companies are moving up front? It would be easy to argue for Apple. After all, the company has shifted its entire strategy to focus on mobility, from laptops to tablets to smartphones to portable media devices, and in 2010 it passed Microsoft to become the world's largest tech company. However, Apple's strict focus on vertical integration generates lots of profits and great products, but limits its role as a partner in the larger tech ecosystem and ultimately limits its market share potential as well. Apple is an island -- a very lush, idyllic island, but an island nonetheless.

The leaders of the next era in computing will very likely be Google Android and NVIDIA.

Android isn't without its challenges -- lack of OS standardization is fragmenting the experience for users and the software itself suffers from the same kind of gradual "bit rot" that plagues Windows. Nevertheless, Android is proving itself to be as adaptable for mobile devices as Windows (and DOS before it) was for PCs and that's why all of the major mobile OEMs are rallying behind it.

I've doubted Google's commitment to building great software, but the work that Google has done with the UI for Android 3.0 Honeycomb along with the desktop UI that Motorola built on top of Android on the Atrix 4G (for when the device is docked in laptop or desktop mode) have inspired new optimism that not only will Android develop into a great mobile OS for phones, but also has tremendous potential for tablets and light laptops as well.

On the hardware side, it's interesting that NVIDIA is the company edging forward into the pole position. Previously known for its high-end graphics chips for PCs, NVIDIA made a big bet on mobile processors in recent years and looks poised to reap huge benefits from it by leapfrogging past mobile chipmakers like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

NVIDIA took its knowledge designing GPUs for PCs and channeled it into building mobile CPUs with excellent overall speed, strong graphics, and a low power footprint. Its NVIDIA Tegra processor first showed off impressive performance in the Microsoft Zune HD. And, it's dual core Tegra 2 was everywhere at CES 2011 as tech companies unveiled their big products for the year. The dual core Tegra 2 was featured in nearly all of the hottest smartphones and tablets announced at CES.

Also at CES, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said, "We need a device that brings the portability and mobility of the smartphone, but the power and performance of the PC."

At the company's CES press conference, it was easy to tell that NVIDIA sees itself as a company that has the tiger by the tail. Huang radiated confidence and tossed out hyperboles like "This is the beginning of a new era" and "There's a mobile computing revolution underway" and "The magnitude of this change is still being internalized by us all" and "I think we're going to look back on this particular CES as when things changed."

Here are a couple of the slides that NVIDIA trotted out to CES 2011 to show why the company is so excited:

NVIDIA also has its Tegra 3 processor on the way later this year, and at CES the company announced "Project Denver" (a codename), which is a high performance ARM core that NVIDIA and ARM are designing together in order to power laptops, desktop, servers, and supercomputers. This is a company that is hitting on all cylinders

Final thoughts

Keep in mind that the mobile ecosystem is going to have a lot more diversity than the PC ecosystem ever did. We won't see a platform dominate with 80%-90% market share the way Microsoft Windows and Intel chips did in the PC market.

In mobile, there will be plenty of room for Apple to snatch up lots of market share with its vertical integration, BlackBerry will remain an important niche platform for high-security businesses, and Nokia, Microsoft, and others will continue to fight on and try to grab a sliver of the market. On the hardware side, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments won't go down without a fight and the two of them will remain important players in the mobile ecosystem.

Still, the top dogs in mobile are going to be Android and NVIDIA, and the way things are going in the computing world, these two will no longer be limited to just hand-held devices but will soon start honing in on some native Wintel territory as well.

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Mobility

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  • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

    "In the developing world, mobile devices are the primary PCs"

    What?
    cruggeld
    • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

      @cruggeld, agree. it's quite attractive to buy a smartphone with your 6 month salary.
      d.marcu
    • Good blog, but.......

      @cruggeld <br><br>"We wont see a platform dominate with 80%-90% market share the way Microsoft Windows and Intel chips did in the PC market."<br><br>That is a highly premature conclusion. It is indeed entirely possible that one platform will eventually dominate. The most popular platform slowly develops cost/price and support/developer advantages that the smaller players may eventually struggle to compete with. The whole ecosystem will work better with a dominant standard, in particular if that standard is open and therefore can respond quickly to market forces. <br><br>I am not making a prediction, but merely taking issue with yours.

      Edit: Sorry, not meant to be a reply to "cruggeld".
      Economister
    • He is right, lower income people will be able to afford a dirt cheap mobile

      device before they can afford a laptop or PC. And, building towers is much cheaper than running copper. There will be dirt cheap mobile devices, unlike the super expensive smart phones sold in the US.
      DonnieBoy
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        @DonnieBoy Eh, what? Why should they be cheaper?
        CobraA1
      • CobraA1: It does not take a rocket scientist to see that you can build a

        mobile device a lot cheaper than artificially high prices on carriers in the US. Also, for developing countries, they can get by with less fit and finish, slower processors, and lower resolution screens.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        @DonnieBoy

        Dirt cheap? How are the low income folks to afford the monthly wireless data fees?
        wkulecz
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        @DonnieBoy

        "It does not take a rocket scientist to see that you can build a mobile device a lot cheaper than artificially high prices on carriers in the US. "

        I suppose you know this because you've done credible research, which I'd like to see if you have your sources.
        CobraA1
    • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

      @cruggeld : He stated incorrectly.

      He should have said:

      "In the developing world, mobile devices are the primary computing device".

      I live in an--so called--emerging market (Mexico) and we have lots and lots of PCs.

      But the PC market is constrained to upper and middle class

      Minimum wage workers and informal businesses normally don't have a PC or share one with several members of the aggregated family.

      Conversely, this is not true with cell phones. Telcel (part of America Mobile) boasts a 50 million user base for mobile phones. That's amazing considering a 110 million general population. That would mean a 50+% mobile phone quota.

      So again, we might well be on a revolution far greater than PCs, as the new demographics (children, elderly, and people afraid of computers) far exceed the current status quo.

      In other words, this is a far greater beast than the previous one.

      <i>It's a shame the world's gonna end on 2012. LOL!!!</i>
      cosuna
    • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

      @cruggeld
      Americans might find it hard to understand but with the electricity supply problems and high cost of laptops to purchase and maintain, a 3g phone, usually a nokia, but with tons of LG's Samsungs etc give people their main and most reliable internet access
      strangefruit
    • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

      @cruggeld

      This is part of the "poor people don't need what we have" theory.

      They don't need a real OS or to participate in the global economy so we give them Linux. We don't want students to learn the global OS so we give them more Linux.

      They can't afford Apple so they are at least safe from using an ancient retooled BSD Unix.

      Apparently they don't need a real OS, just one for a phone.

      Looks like an advertising company is their only hope as soon as Google can decide which version of Android is going to save the world ;-)
      tonymcs@...
    • Googloid even stronger than nVidiArm

      Yes mobile computing will effectively explode, and Google will continue to grow to success with Android as a pervasive computing platform that will certainly win over Apple (unless Apple revizes its prices for the platform, and opens its technology, to allow interoperability for iTunes with other media vendors). Google has chosen the right strategy : even if it is computing now with Facebook as a web aggregator, going to mobile will make it much stronger in a domain where Facebook hardly competes very well (also because Facebook has lots of problems with managing the users rights).

      But anyway, people will not throw away their PCs immediately : a mobile platform is still very costly to use (because of mobile operators heavy pricing, and very low competition in this domain, plus abusive commercial practices that are worsening over time). So mobile devices, tied to mobile operators with lots of restictions (such as forbidding the use as a modem, or restricting most open protocols), will cause users to use mobile devices only as a complement for their PCs. The other reason is the heavy power usage of new mobile devices and low autonomy: if you constantly need a wire to recharge batteries that are also costly to replace, you just get a device that is less suited than a PC.
      PhilippeV
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        So how to fill the gap ? Possibly tablets could help. But there's another factor appearing: fixed internet operators are now introducing DSL boxes that are gaining lots of applications (see for example what Free.fr, a DSL/fiber ISP in France, is integrating in its "Freebox": internet, lots of services, a complete media center, lots of TV channels, free cables for your HDTV, free CPL plugs, national and international unlimited free call plans to both fixed lines and mobile phones of all operators, free BlueRay reader, SD card reader, USB connectors for classic mouse and keyboard, free remote control and free remote game control, MIMO WiFi B/G/N, IPv6-ready, additional local storage for your media or your recorded TV shows, free remote control for the TV media from anywhere with your mobile phone, free music plans, and now as well gaming, webhosting, very soon there' will be cloud computing. And yes this box is a very good PC... ARM-based).

        So who is in danger? Intel because of ARM processors. AMD/ATI face to nVidia and Intel for graphics. Microsoft face to GoogleOS and Linux for ARM. Microsoft as well for cloud computing face to Google Apps.
        PhilippeV
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        The key could be when people will think that their DSL-box/cable-box for their fixed internet subscription will be as powerful as a full PC: you no longer need to buy and support Windows, everything is available for free, between a large local storage built in, and a great online cloud computing platform and lots of online applications (notably digital medias:TV/radio/music/cinema/games), all available on your box, and integrated with the mobile offers of the same quadruple-play internet providers. The only limiting factor is the customization of the interface, and this will come very soon. Due to convergence, most people will want complete interaction with a single unified account for their mobile and fixed Internet experience. Now with fibers being deployed, the DSL/cable box will become a fiber-box that will be as powerful and fast to access as if it was located on the Internet backbone, and will become compeltely integrated with the cloud (that will offer additional computing capacities). All these boxes will be able to perform distributed computing when they are in idle mode. Those ISP should then now be able to build giant distributed grids, based on their own standard platform, with lots of redundancy and protection against failure.

        Microsoft has chosen the wrong stragegy for cloud computing: too highly priced for mass market. Its technologies are also too expensive for developers, and too complicate to learn now : why do you need to spend $2000 each year per developer just to get the tools, plus $8/hour of computing, when there are now tons of RAD developement tools for today technologies in the opensource segment : Eclipse, LAMP are much enough and faster to deploy for cloud service providers, and cheaper. They are also much eaiser to standardize and reduce to the necessary features you need. They are much easier to administrate.
        PhilippeV
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        So what do we need now for applications ? Internet access froim everywhere, universal access, unified accounts, user identity-based experience independant of the platform or user location. Web technologies are now usable to build any kind of applications, even the most demanding ones such as games (this will be really true when proprietary Flash or Silverlight will be definitely abandoned for open HTML5, open audio/video standards, SVG 2D graphics, 3D modeling in XML- or JSON-based shemas, with some hardware offering those capabilities on all devices : nVidia is effectively ready (but ATI/AMD is very close as well).

        Don't imagine that Google will bind itself only to the ARM/nVidia platform. Google has designed its OS and technologies on opensource for its ability to change the platform when it wants. Google is not Apple (I can predict that Apple will be absorbed by Microsoft, because Microsoft will fail in all its hardware initiatives, and Apple will fail if it continues to sell overpriced hardwares as the only strategy to survive, when both Apple and Microsoft would resist better if they evolved to a media distribution system). Microsoft could capitalize on its .Net expertize if it adopted Linux ad well to help support the CLR over much wider ranges of servers and clients. But .Net will not be the key for cloud computing, even if it may be used as a way to add easily deployable addons for integration on servers, or on distribured computing clouds.

        Who already controls the clouds ? It's not Microsoft, but Google, and Google continues to be the key, even if many users have adopted Facebook for their online activities. But if Facebook is very good in public communities, people have strong needs for their own private applications and medias, that Facebook cannot protect very well (Facebook will have giant opponents with the media producers, as it fails everywhere in digital rights management, and privacy protection). Google remains a reference when people are searching services (on Facebook you don't search, you can't compare things, you have no control on the layout, this is the chaos where everything comes to you in random order : what you see is not want you really wanted and there's no way to manage your activities). I really prefer what Google offers by separating things cleanly, and helping users to organize and customize their environment to their needs.

        In summary, Google has already made all the right choices since its begining. It has never introduced things by forcing people to adopt them by various tricks (like Microsoft or Facebook did): Google adopted the "Labs" strategy, and a really collaborative way to allow lots of people to try things and help Google determine what most of them want (in the default configuration) and what can be optional (but setup with very simple configuration options). Android already wins almost everywhere against Apple, and its offer is now richer than Apple. Most Android devices are sold at ridiculous prices, without loosing functionalities. But luxury devices are also available for those that want it for their devices.
        PhilippeV
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        Android is already present on all segments of markets, from the Wintel PC (where it lives with Chrome as a minimum implementation, and all the traditional Google web services : GSearch, GMaps, GEarth, Gmails, GTalk). GMaps has already won against all yellow page services worldwide, it is winning against TOMTOM and others for navigation (due to integration of GMaps in most Android mobile devices: smartphones and tablets, now sold with car installation sockets, or preintegrated in some cars by manufacturers).

        Yes we need the same compatible platform on all devices from the smallest handheld screen of a smartphone in a pocket, to the home mediacenter or servers for distributed computing : Wintel is very late, and the ARM platform already fits all needs, except the traditional PC for Windows apps, but almost all these apps will now be written for a .net VM, that already runs on ARM with free and interoperable Unix/Linux-based implementations.
        PhilippeV
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        But for now, all the limiting factors are ONLY the mobilephone operators due to their pricing. But mobile computing will win elesewhere, in the deregulated sector (WiFi, Bluetooth, and even DPMR), because very large band conectivity will be available everywhere at short distance (but still sharable and securable with clouds holding ost of the computing capabilities, even if the local device is much more limited). All that is needed is an excellent rendering system in the access device (for adi/video codecs, 2D and 3D graphics, and high-fidelity colors and refresh rates). The GPU is increasingly being used to parallelize applications, and CPUs are now multiplying their cores like GPUs.
        The partnership between ARM and nVidia will unify GPUs and CPUs (Intel is just starting it, long after nVidia and ATI/AMD). Massively parallelizable softwares will become the standard because most softwares will become services running in a very wide distributed computing grid which will also be much more energy-efficient, solving the problem of batteries for mobile appliances. You'll no longer need an inefficient PC to do the same thing.

        But finally, Android will never bind its future to just nVidia/ARM. Its platform is already compatible with Wintel, or Apple/iOS, and tomorrow to a massively distributed OS supporting VMs accessible and running from any place with any device, with unlimited, nearly infinite, computing capabilities and massive scalability. So instead of buying a device for its capabilities, you'll buy for a service provider that supports the best computing grid and best universal access (and Google already has a very large advance on this, due to its capability of becoming THE service aggregator). Don't be afraid by Facebook, it will disappear as fast as Myspace is now fading out with a massive exodus.

        But I can predict that Oracle will absorb Apple and force it to change its strategy from an old hardware vendor to a true service provider. Apple desesperately needs to cut its ties with Wintel, and could even adopt the nVidia-ARM as an alternative, when AppleOS will have been fully migrated to run on top of a VM independant of the underlying hardware. Oracle will offer it (and is preparing the new version of the JVM that will also support the standard CLR of .Net as a subsystem, just like the existing Java 6 platform, and will support massive parallelism natively without specific recompilation of kernels). Of course the JVM will support the ARM hardware, just like today, as well as Wintel, or Linux, or BSD (thanks to the OpenJDK which is now fully open-sourced). Oracle (with its Sun division) is very good at developing underlying VM support abstractions and automatic optimizations on the fly, and transparent deployment on heterogeneous hardware platforms (and Oracle also has the excellent support of IBM with Eclipse, IBM also being very good at developing optimizing compilers and parallelization systems, much more than Microsoft in fact, plus getting excellent relations with many ISV's for enterprise computing and deployments, or relations with ISPs and telcos). Cisco could join as well to fill the remaining gap with ISPs and telcos (that still control the mobile "tube", and profit the most).

        And remember this: Microsoft has always been a dwarf compared to giant telcos (that collect MUCH more money from customers, due to their commercial practices, but also due to abusive technological barriers to protect their own markets, plus excessive national regulation to enter the market, but missing legal protection of consumers).

        So the good question is not who will control the computing industry (software makers, hardware vendors), but if the computing insutry will resist to the heavily regulated telecommunication industry with its very huge set of restricted intellectual properties, costly licencing schemes, and increasing access fees and commercial margins (mobile telcos have almost completely won the war on controlling medias in their own mobile platforms, even if they seem to have lost for now in the fixed Internet ; telcos have already demonstrated that they could control Apple on the iPhone, they will win to get access to the iTunes platform, telcos can already take commercial margins on mobile application markets, just like they can restrict the protocols or applications usable by their constantly paying subscribers that are also forced to give direct access to their bank accounts and tricked to avoid fair competition by making them captive). Don't forget also that telcos are also owning almost all of the Internet tubes (telcos are deciding what is in their interest to provide just enough interoperability for their services).
        PhilippeV
      • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

        Note: the message above continues in the next reply messages from me, but they are displayed in the reverse order, and should be read bottom to top (the topmost reply being the least one with the conclusion.
        PhilippeV
  • RE: Will Android NVIDIA become the new Wintel?

    Mobile devices, tablets include, are not PCs. They do not take the place of a PC. They have their own place. I have a Droid. When my contract runs out, I am either getting a Win 7 or a iPhone. I do like the ARM Chip though.
    hayneiii@...
    • Mobile devices, tablets include, are not PC

      @hayneiii@...
      Remember intelligent mobile devices are in their infancy, their capabilities will increase exponentially over the next decade.
      In the early 1980s the idea of 'micros' replacing mainframes was laughable...
      AndyPagin