Nvidia has some side bets on Surface and Windows RT, but Android is the really exciting OS of the future, according to CEO and co-founder Jen-Hsun Huang on an investor call today to discuss the company’s latest financial results. Huang pointed to the Shield as its means of furthering the growing Android gaming ecosystem, but games are truly only one part of the picture for Android’s bright future, he believes.
“Shield is our initiative to cultivate the gaming marketplace for Android,” Huang said, as quoted by ZDNet. “We believe that Android is going to be a very important platform for gaming in the future, and to do so we have to create devices that enable great gaming to happen on Android.”
The Nvidia Shield, released earlier this year, is essentially a small Android tablet welded to a gamepad controller, creating effectively a portable Android-powered gaming console that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Nintendo and Sony’s dedicated mobile gaming hardware. A recent software update for the Shield also improves its ability to output games content to big screens, including TVs, making it also a suitable microconsole for living room systems.
Huang’s statement is perhaps the clearest articulation of Shield’s intended purpose yet; the console is designed to provide a focal point for free-floating Android game developer ambitions, offering up a target to build for. This helps the overall gaming ecosystem, but also helps Nvidia, by prompting more developers to build experiences tailored for Tegra, its mobile system-on-a-chip, thus encouraging more Android device OEMs to look its way when building out specifications for their latest hardware.
Android’s potential goes beyond gaming into virtually every corner of connected living, however, says Huang. Tegra’s presence in automotive systems and set-top boxes, data centers, all-in-one PCs and more make it the perfect platform for the future, Huang noted, calling Google’s mobile OS “the most disruptive operating system that we’ve seen in a few decades.”
In many ways, the rise of Android is literally like a gold rush – prospectors are setting up shop and staking claims, and suppliers like Nvidia are congregating around the hub to benefit from the bump in the overall supply ecosystem created by the new demand. With initiatives like the Shield and the Tegra Note reference tablet (which is now being sold by British retailer Advent as the Advent Vega), Nvidia is engaging the market even further by placing seeds that it believes will slowly grow to become congregation points around which the rest of the Android ecosystem centers their own efforts, developers and device makers alike. It’s as if they found a seam of gold ore, to stretch the metaphor, and then then called out to the miner community to let them know exactly where the gold is at.
It’s a long-term strategy, and one that works in tandem with short-term ones like introducing a new LTE chip to help boost Tegra sales immediately. There’s a lot of competition, however, and Qualcomm is running away with the market, so the question remains whether or not these seeds Nvidia is planting will have time to come to fruition.