Nvidia on Smartbook Operating Systems: WinCE best for now.

Posted on 18 June 2009, Last updated on 12 November 2019 by

tegra This is a subject we discussed at length on the last MeeMobility podcast. Operating systems for smartbooks. Android appears to be a great brand but it’s not ready for the big(ger) screen yet. As far as I know, the Open Handset Alliance has never announced plans to upscale the OS to laptop-style usage so for the time being, a good brand is all it is.

Nvidia, the creators of the Tegra MID and Smartbook platform, think the same and are focusing on WinCE right now. Yes, it’s a little shocking to us too. We know the platform is mature and stable but we can’t say we’ve ever seen any good quality consumer-focused mobile internet devices running it. Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows Mobile 7, extensions of the WINCE OS could carry more branding weight and attract more developers but again, it might not be the right choice for consumers.

The Nvidia info comes from an interesting ComputerWorld article.

Nvidia chose to work with Windows CE first, said Rayfield, because it “is a rock-solid operating system that has been shipped billions of times.”

Windows CE also has a “low memory footprint and a good collection of apps,” Rayfield said.

He said Nvidia is also improving Tegra for use on Windows Mobile, a close variant of Windows CE, for ARM-based smartphones.

Nvidia is working with Google to accelerate Android, which is based on Linux, when running on Tegra hardware. But it will be about a year before that delivers for smartbooks, due to existing limitations in Android, he said.

Get that? A year before Android ‘delivers’ on a smartbook.

The Tegra playing field has a number of big holes that need to be filled. CPU power, Operating Systems, Adobe Flash, a rich suite of modern applications and the all-important developer ecosystem. When you look at Moorestown and Moblin V2 and hear Intel talking about it being able to deliver better smartbooks than the ARM-based ecosystem, you have to wonder whether Nvidia can really compete. Maybe Tegra-based MIDs and Smartphones on Anroid, Win 7, Mer or Maemo would be a better focus?

16 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    New article: Nvidia on Smartbook Operating Systems: WinCE best for now. http://cli.gs/t805bP

  2. jkkmobile says:

    Yep, that’s what they said on Computex…

    They have Firefox 3.5 running on it and they are porting aps for it but as you can’t run most Windows Mobile aps it won’t be that nice.

    My video about it: http://jkkmobile.blogspot.com/2009/06/hands-on-with-nvidia-tegra-platform-on.html

  3. JP says:

    Hardware engineering have always been easier and quickier than software engineering… Now nVidia is stuck with a good chip and no OS.

  4. Patrick says:

    Not the case with nVidia. They are stuck with “old” ARM 11 base that is so measly that can’t even run Linux on it. Only next year they will implement Cortex core family but even now with archaic core they can’t tweak the power output suitable enough for smartphone usage. Still nVidia is not only market competitor, there is Marvell, Freescale, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm… and the list goes on. When you put it all in perspective, one big giant vs. a nimble wolf pack i wonder who will win in this market.. ;)

  5. johnkzin says:

    Did they say what the Android limitations were? I wonder if it’s close to my list of things I’d want to see fixed before I wanted to use Android on a Netbook/Smartbook/etc.

    (as for which OS to focus on… Maemo/Mer, or an Ubuntu flavor, with Ubuntu’s Android/Dalvik runtime … that’d be what I’d look toward :-) on a netbook/smartbook, MID, smartphone, tablet, anything in that sub-10″ screen range)

  6. Eric says:

    Don’t forget NVidia is closely tied with M$ for access to the latest DirectX specs. They’ve learnt it the hard way in the past. I think they’re not betting against Wintel, for which they have and they’ll always have a good offering on netbooks, and that solution will scale down to smarbooks next year, based on Windows 7. I think the Tegra solution allows them to be in the ARM market, just in case. But they don’t want to go head-to-head with M$ for that.

  7. Sere83 says:

    Well personally, I don’t understand why people are making such a big deal about android. Fair enough it is open source which is great but at the end of the day, visually it looks very average, functionality wise it is also very average. Media capabilities are weak too without 3rd party apps. Fair enough it’s still early days but it is not a particularly inspiring OS in my mind.

    Despite all it’s limitations the Iphone’s OS destroys Android both aesthetically and functionally. I was actually expecting much more from android both aesthetically and functionality wise. Even Palm’s web OS looks like it has far more potential and every company under the sun is looking to make an app store including palm so getting apps to do most things will almost certainly not be an issue on a web OS based phones.

    As for android on a netbook, what is the point? some chopped down half arsed OS on what is esentially a small laptop or Windows XP or some full desktop linux derivative? tough one let me see….Smaller footprint? who cares? I’d rather stick to Atom and reap all the benefits.

    As for Win CE I can actually understand a little why nvidia have said this. The bottom line is Win CE is rock soild, tried and tested. The fully redesigned 6.0 kernal is far more advanced than the extremely dated 5.0 build.

    The point is that WIn CE as it says has a very small footprint and with the right coding provides a sturdy foundation for building fully custom OS’s. Look at what Meizu did with the M8, ok the took their queues from the iphone and lack some expertise in bug fixing but imagine what a large software company could do with win ce and a powerful platform like Tegra.

    From the prototypes it is clear that tegra is a very capable solution but to enjoy all the graphical capabilities I think a custom UI would be necessary and Windows CE provides a perfect platform to build one. Ok ecosystem/ applications/ attracting developers is another issue, but core functionality and visuals still play a huge role and with tegra behind such a device it could visually blow the competition away. And with amazing vgraphical capabilities and an SDK who knows whats possible. Admittedly this would be a lot of work.

    Windows Mobile 7 will be built on a Win CE 6.0 framework and you can expect all sorts of touch based/gesture based input etc etc proper support for 24 bit color etc etc. I do agree that maybe Windows mobile 7 would be a good solution as from what I have seen it seems like it will be far more advanced and capable than earlier iterations. Nevertheless I do think we will be seeing any of the amazing fluid visualls in windows mobile 7 that the videos of tegra protypes have shown.

    Unfortunately as we all know building csutom mobile OS’s is not easy. But saying that though if a company like meizu can do it I believe with the right software development team, the combination of a win ce 6.0 base and the Tegra platform has the potential to create something very special.

  8. johnkzin says:

    In my view of things, Android is not a crippled version of Linux (Linux jr., as in IBM PC vs IBM PC jr.). Nor is it a “smartphone version of Linux”. It’s consumer friendly Linux.

    From a User Interface perspective, even the best mainstream Linux is only slightly better than half-baked (and I love Ubuntu, but really, 3/4 baked at most). Android, while it may not be as flashy and glitzy as some would like, has a fully baked UI.

    That’s why it will be desired on netbooks. And, IMO, that’s why it will be successful on netbooks.

  9. Wesley says:

    Too bad about this. The smartbooks with Qualcomm and Freescale chips will be running a proper linux os ported for ARM, which will be much better and able to perform so many more functions due to the large number of very good and free applications available.

    Nvidia is missing out by insisting on using Windows CE, which will be quite basic really and very limited. I hope they change their minds or that users will at least be able to install Ubuntu for Arm on them by themselves.

    I say keep Android and Windows CE on cellphones/smartphones, there are plenty of better Linux options for a pc kind of device.

  10. yet_another_guest says:


    Actually I totally disagree with you.

    Try thinking this: Take the iPhone OS, enlarge the screen to 7″ – 10″, remove the touch-functionality, add a keyboard and a touchpad in a clamshell design. Do you think this design would work? I think it won’t. And I think the same is valid for Android. It was designed for hand-held devices with touchscreen monitors, and I think the Nvidia guy is right when he says Google needs the spend at least a year to modify the GUI so that it will work on other devices. Google can do that, but it will take time to develop. So please give them some time to develop, and please don’t be disappointed by their first shot at a more desktop like OS.

    Another problem is that Android also limits its applications capeabilities since they are Java-based (No, accessing the hardware through Java isn’t fun. A real C-dialect will always deliver a better performance and more possibilities). It is stronger than the MIDP variant, but it’s still Java, with all its pro’s and con’s. Also the RAZR V3 was running a Linux kernel with Java apps on top (although the weak MIDP stuff in this case).

    I think a real Linux distribution, like (K)Ubuntu in its UMPC flavour or Moblin will do a much better Job, since it works with the possibilities of this kind of smartbook devices.

  11. hiromob says:

    "Nvidia on Smartbook Operating Systems: WinCE best for now." http://bit.ly/qRilG TegraなAndroidが出るのはもうちょっと時間がかかりそうだ。

  12. Linuxslate says:

    I agree with wesley and yet_another_guest We’ve put Ubuntu Netbook Remix on my son’s very basic Eee PC 900. It took some very consumer un-friendly fixing to get it to work, but once done, it is fantastic. Cosmetically nice, fast enough even on this very basic hardware, and extremely functional for even complex websites, documents, etc. I love Andorid on my ADP 1, but I would not even think of putting it on the Eee900. It would be a HUGE step DOWN in usability, app availability, UI, etc. Why in this day and age is there even a discussion about ARM netbooks? Atom, and others bring an adequate mix of performance and battery life for a netbook. Netbooks should run a full OS. Once the bug fixes are included in Ubuntu NR, It’ll be a near perfect netbook OS. Leave Android/ARM for phones, (for now) and Embedded things with touch screen displays. There should net even be a discussion of CE vs Android for netbooks. It’s kinda like discussing if I should power my rocket ship with an Air conditioning fan motor or a lawn mower engine.

  13. Patrick says:

    nVidia Tegra netbook will be only a toy.. matter of fact one of their sales rep told it would be nice gift for kids.. :D

    my dream machine for now is 3-cell smarbook with 12″ Pixel Qi display (will be ok even with 10″ one ;)) able to run all day! I just love working outside and until now i was forced to toll my working hours insde four walls or minimally somewhere in the shade squnting my eyes off.. :S

  14. LeeN says:

    The more I hear about this Tegra thing, it seems to me to be about intel. Like they are trying to enhance the Arm/Windows CE platform, as a means to compete with the x86/Windows platform.

    Anytime that I think of a netbook that is not part of the Windows lineage of x86 based XP/Vista/7, I feel like it is a toy. Toys can be fun and do some of the most basic things you would want, and some toys can be hacked to do more, but in the end I will be comparing the toy to the real thing and be envious, and longing for it.

    There is a lot of applications on x86 windows, that I would want to run on other OSes that I would not be able to. Sure it will be able to decode 1080p video, and they may have hdmi output, but where are they going to get the bluray player? Can I hook up any bluray drive, will it have the drivers, will it have powerdvd or an equivalent? Maybe they will get these features. But the whole 1080p thing seems to be about streaming/downloaded video.

    But I digress, I think this Windows CE/Arm platform is cleaner and fresher, and it has the opportunity to do things right. And the longer battery life will be nice, assuming that when all is said and done that it will be able to maintain its battery performance.

    As for Android, I don’t really consider it a Linux OS, it may be an OS that uses the Linux Kernel, but you can’t directly compile basic Linux applications for it. And the only reason it is user friendly is because it doesn’t have to deal with lots of different hardware (different screen sizes, input methods, etc). A lot of developers are not happy with it, because they have to write their apps in java and can’t write it in C or C++, on the other hand I think this makes it easier for making sure apps are safe/secure, where as C/C++ applications can do low level things that can destroy your device or install root kits, spyware, viruses, etc.

  15. Tarsha Plexico says:

    I was wondering if anyone has tried this Sports Handicapping Service? I saw his video on Youtube and it turns out the service is sold through clickbank which means it comes with a 60 day money back guarantee. Was inquiring what peoples thoughts were.

  16. Sean Perry says:

    For me, the best operating system is Linux because it rarely hangs.”*

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