NVIDIA: Windows CE is better than Android for Tegra smartbooks

NVIDIA’s Tegra platform combines a low power ARM-based processor with NVIDIA graphics to power ultraportable devices capable of displaying 1080p video over HDMI while using very little power. But ARM processors, which are much more common in cellphones than laptops these days, don’t run Windows. Or rather, Microsoft hasn’t ported Windows XP, Vista, or 7 to run on ARM processors. But Microsoft does have an operating system that runs on ARM: Windows CE, which is the backbone of the Windows Mobile operating system found on a number of smartphones.

While Windows CE can’t run desktop Windows applications, the OS has been around in one form or another for over a decade and there are thousands of mobile applications that will run on Windows CE. It also comes with mobile versions of Word and Excel, as well as a pocket version of Internet Explorer, although mobile versions of the Firefox and Opera web browsers do a better job of rendering many web pages. Windows CE also has a significantly lower storage and memory footprint than Windows, which means it can run well on devices with little RAM and small hard drives or solid state disks.

So while there’s a lot of talk about using Google’s mobile Android operating system on netbooks, NVIDIA thinks that Windows CE is a better fit for Tegra powered devices. The platform is more mature, and NVIDIA mobile business unit manager Mike Rayfield tells Computer World that Android has a “rough user interface.”

Another reason NVIDIA may be leaning toward Windows CE? There’s a rumor going around that Microsoft is using the Tegra platform in its upcoming Zune HD portable media players. Rayfield didn’t exactly confirm or deny that to Computer World, but his non-answer reads suspiciously like a confirmation to me.

via UMPC Portal

  • zima

    And _another_ reason why they're saying this is that, apart from video acceleration, Tegra is obsolete – it's based on older ARM11 architecture, not, for example, on Cortex-A8. It's much slower than, say, Snapdragon.

    Which might not be that visible under Windows CE, which was geared for a long time towards smartphones, also ones with much slower CPUs. But Android just debuted, treats CPUs comparable to Tegra as a starting, basic level. Plus it can load real desktop apps…

  • Brian

    Hmmm..who's a whore here?
    How much is the MS tax on windows CE?

  • John

    Firefoc 3.5 has been shown on Tegra running CE (that's a desktop app).

    And it looks very fast as nvidia seems to be supporting GPU acceleration of applications very nicely indeed. Which may go a lot of the way to make up for a slower CPU.

    Also outputs 1080p via HDMI so I have no complaints with the power of tegra.

  • zima

    Firefox, and majority of apps, don't rely on GPU (well, there's flash in case of web browsers, but generally that's separate, universal component). They rely on CPU. The one in Tegra is 3 or 4 times slower than Snapdragon one.

    BTW, Firefox in those videos was used as any mobile browser – just basic features, few tabs at most. If you're going to use “full featured” (whatever that means…) browser that way, you might just as well use Webkit-based one built into Android.

  • John

    Really? Strange that because nvidia said not only was the GPU doing desktop rendering to accelerate the desktop but for firefox the CPU offloaded all the webpage rendering tasks to the GPU to make it even faster… Didn't look 3 or 4 times slower than any other firefox demo I have seen? In fact it looked faster than most Atom based netbooks using firefox.

    Ok so the 512mb machine slowed after 4 tabs but this was due to memory not lack of processing, it's a portable unit with a 9″ screen and there will be 1gb tegras capable of more tabs.

    Nvidia also said they were working to get other apps ported to tegra with GPU acceleration as well.

    Can I ask if you have used CE? Not WM on a phone but full CE on a larger screen (and recently)? A lot of people put an automatic block on it because it sits under a version of WM they had on a crap cellphone at some point.

    I am willing to bet snapdragon will not manage to implement as good GPU acceleration as nvidia and I am also willing to bet on all the demo videos I have seen so far there will be little or no diffrence to usefullness of final product.

    Think you will find snapdragon doesn't do 1080p tegra does (snapdragon said it needed a dual core 1.5ghz version to do 1080p). Shows how good the GPU is and if they really can offload some software tasks to GPU to speed them up there is every chance they will make their units snappier and quicker in use than the snapdragon ones.

    John

  • John

    To give you an idea.

    I have a Windows CE 4.2 (mini-netbook esk device called a Smartbook G138).

    It has a StrongArm 206Mhz CPU and 94Mb RAM available (split between programs and storage) this is 5 years old with a cpu that came out 12 years ago. It will likely surprise you to know it renders most webpages quicker than devices with 500Mhz Xscale CPU's and my friends iphone 3g. This same device will actually load simple pages quicker over wi-fi than out Dell mini 9 – ok so it struggles with large complicated pages but heck almost no memory and a 200mhz cpu I aint expecting miricales but the fact it's faster on most basic sites and forums is really quite shocking and a little unsettling.

    CPU isn't the be all and end all. And there is a huge diffrence between ce devices with the same CPU. A whole lot more comes down to design of interfaces with the CPU/SOC, Quality of Drivers and GPU acceleration.

    Take another example a 4 year old CPU would have a good chance of running most recent games with a good grfx card. But a 4 year old GPU would struggle to do the same with an up to date CPU.

    Maybe that kinda gives a better example of some of the points I am trying to say.

  • John

    not a lot at all for volume…

  • John

    Last reason they seem to be suggesting CE over Android. Is…

    “Also, all video and graphics rendering in Android is done today by the operating system's Java code, a technique he says is too slow for HD video.

    “There's no hardware acceleration. It's all software,” Rayfield said.”

  • John

    Lastly a comment for the article writer.

    IE that comes with CE often does a not so good job of rendering on mobile phones with WM as it is trying to re-size the page to fit smaller screens.

    IE built into CE .net 4.2 does a cracking job of rendering pages that look just like they do on the desktop PC when on a device with an 800×480 screen. However, looks like tegra is going with Firefox which means I guess I won't be using CE's IE very much.

    After seeing all the videos and the fact I like and appreciate some of the good points of CE I am looking to get a Tegra based device as soon as they are for sale (though will get somthing else if better performance comes along). So will happilly do a write-up / video.

    Another handy thing for CE is almost all Satnav software was designed for CE with Arm cpu's so adding your nav software of choice will be nice and easy. Another reason I really want to see a very slimline 7″ netbook device based on tegra as that would be perfect for sitting on a car mount.

    John

  • ry

    Is this a hint that we could see a version of Windows Mobile (based on CE) coming to netbooks and tablets?

  • John

    erm nope…. Snapdragon will ship netbooks running Windows Mobile or Linux so that's already confirmed :)

  • John

    erm nope…. Snapdragon will ship netbooks running Windows Mobile or Linux so that's already confirmed :)