The Hills Are Greener: The Next Nexus 7, and Why Google May Be Unwilling to Prevent Hardware Fragmentation

The Hills Are Greener: The Next Nexus 7, and Why Google May Be Unwilling to Prevent Hardware Fragmentation

Apr 8, 2013

While rumors and speculation are certainly going to spread like wildfire, because a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth can even put its pants on, the rumor that Google is changing up processors on the Nexus 7’s successor from the Tegra 3 to the Qualcomm Snapdragon is certainly a curious one. The reason given is power consumption is better on the Snapdragon, which is certainly important on a phone, but on a tablet, it’s less of a concern. Since tablets have evolved to have the same power as phones just with larger screens and batteries, the power consumption problem is often just solved by having a whopper of a battery. There seems to be only a marginal benefit of having an increase in battery life for a device that’s going to last a long time anyway just based on the nature of a tablet.

tegra4-processorConsider why the Nexus 7 was such a great device: it became the reference standard for the Tegra processor, created by Nvidia. Now, for gamers this has been a good decision as the company has used its chops as a gaming company to get more gaming content – not to mention exclusive deals. Also, it’s made the device a reference one for developers, and several gaming-focused machines have used the processor in their specifications, especially the OUYA.

But as well, there comes the challenge for developers: after having one processor to be optimized for, now a new processor is coming along to add a new wrench to development? Sure, that sounds lovely. Just more fragmentation, more weird errors that will be caused for developers. Because it isn’t hard enough as it is.

The argument with this is that Google could be moving to what they find is best at the time, which rapidly changes with Android, but even then, there’s something to be said for consistency. As well, the idea of limiting power consumption on a device built for entertainment, instead of using what could be the best processor for gaming and entertainment, seems silly. Perhaps I’m wrong here, but it just seems silly to switch.

Even considering that the US Samsung Galaxy S IV will have a Snapdragon processor, and the Nexus 4 boasts a Snapdragon as well, this is still a problem for a worldwide market. Google should be fostering consistency with their devices. Maybe this is where it starts, but there’s hardly any guarantee of that, now is there?

Say what you will about Apple: they’ve at least been a lot more consistent than Google has with their own Nexus devices. Google wants to have a line of flagship devices? Well, they need to stop changing course every year. Perhaps it’s time to actually use that Motorola partnership and have them making Nexus devices.

So, until some consistency does get developed, the fragmentation problem for developers will continue because even Google isn’t willing to put their best foot forward to prevent it. There will always be different form factors and resolutions, but with many differences still popping up, is Google even trying to solve this problem?

CES 2013: Nvidia Announces Tegra 4 Chip, Project Shield Gaming System, and Nvidia Grid Cloud Gaming Server

CES 2013: Nvidia Announces Tegra 4 Chip, Project Shield Gaming System, and Nvidia Grid Cloud Gaming Server

Jan 7, 2013

On the Sunday night before CES, Nvidia had some big announcements for Android and cloud gaming with some interesting new hardware, including their first self-manufactured Android device.

The biggest announcement is Project Shield, a handheld gaming console. It features a 5" 720p touch screen attached to a gamepad and be powered by the new Tegra 4 chip. The gamepad is similar to the Xbox 360 controller, and serves as the bottom part of a clamshell design with the screen on a hinge. It runs a stock version of Android, not a special fork of it.

Interestingly, it not only will be able to play games from Google Play and TegraZone, it also has the capability to stream and play games from Steam, by using a home PC as an OnLive-esque server, that streams the game to the Shield over local wifi. As well, with the Shield’s HDMI output and purportedly-forthcoming wireless video output, it can also serve as an easy way to play games on a local TV. Project Shield is scheduled to release in the second quarter of 2013.

As for what’s under the hood, the Tegra 4 chip was unveiled. While horsepower claims are extremely subjective, Nvidia is claiming that the chip is more powerful than the A6X that powers the 4th-generation iPad. It features 72 GPU cores (outweighing the 12 in the Tegra 3), is actually produced at a smaller 28nm size versus the 40nm size of the Tegra 3 (in layman’s terms, this means potentially less power consumption), and other things to make game like Dead Trigger 2, announced at the conference, look super-sweet.

Finally, Nvidia announced their Nvidia Grid cloud-based gaming server architecture, which purportedly has the power of 700 Xbox 360s in one 24-rack tower, and they demoed an Android client playing a game powered by the technology, though practical applications are not yet available. Still, this is a major player getting into cloud-based gaming, potentially a huge push for this type of processing after OnLive’ fizzling out in 2012.