Nvidia on Tuesday unveiled Shield, an Android TV console that in addition to playing content locally, can stream video games, movies, music, apps and more.
Yes, it can play Crysis. That claim, a measure of a gaming PC's power a few years ago, is how Nvidia is marketing the Shield console.
Nvidia's Shield Tablet led the way with its Tegra K1 processor and its ability to play Android ports of AAA games natively. The Shield console continues that progress by serving up some of some of the year's biggest games either locally or through Nvidia's cloud gaming service, Grid.
Preceded by the Shield Tablet and the Shield Portable before it, the Shield console is Nvidia's first entertainment device that's meant to live inside entertainment centers in living rooms, noted Nvidia spokesperson Hector Marinez.
Power by the Teraflop
To cozy up with other consoles in consumers' living rooms, Shield leverages the power of the all-new Tegra X1 chip.
"It's our next-gen mobile super chip, built with Maxwell, Nvidia's newest GPU architecture, which powers the world's top-performing graphics cards," Marinez told TechNewsWorld.
"The 256-core Tegra X1 delivers a teraflop of processing power that opens the door to unprecedented graphics, sophisticated deep learning and computer-vision applications," he said.
The Tegra X1, which includes a 64-bit CPU, can deliver 4K video at 60 frames per second, Marinez noted. Beyond gaming, the Tegra X1 will power devices in the automotive, embedded and general mobile sectors.
An Android in the Living Room
Nvidia is committed to the Android operating system, Marinez said, pointing to its wealth of services. Android TV, which is build on Lollipop -- the latest version of the OS -- is designed for just the type of experience Nvidia is planning to deliver with Shield.
It has "a 10-foot user interface, voice search, Google Cast, and apps that are remote- and game controller-compatible," Marinez said. "This makes it the ideal platform for the living room. Content also syncs with mobile Android devices, bringing the living room into the Android ecosystem for the first time ever."
The use of the Android TV platform also opens the Shield experience to content from third parties like Hulu and Netflix.
That said, general media content isn't where the Shield console breaks ground, according to Michael Inouye, senior analyst at ABI Research.
Playing on the Grid
Along with porting high-profile games to the Android platform, Nvidia's growing Grid service shines as a bright star in the Shield system, he told TechNewsWorld. There are other cloud gaming services, but Grid may represent the biggest push into the space so far.
"You haven't seen that many big AAA products arriving on the mobile gaming space," Inouye noted. Shield is "an example of what you can do with these mobile platforms. I think it's a step in the right direction."
Nvidia's Grid streams video games from a collection of supercomputers to Shield products. Grid is currently home to a list of big budget games including Batman: Arkham Origins, Saints Row 4, The Witcher 2 and Street Fighter X Tekken.
As the year rolls on, the Grid game delivery service will house more AAA games. Nvidia plans to release The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Dying Light, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Batman: Arkham Knight and Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Nvidia on Thursday launched the latest in its GTX 900s series of mobile GPUs -- GTX 960m and 950m -- designed to make a gaming laptop as future-proof as possible. Asus' recently unveiled GX501 is one of the machines that already has incorporated the latest Nvidia tech.
The new GPUs include such gaming-enhancing features as BatteryBoost, ShadowPlay and Optimus. BatteryBoost prolongs play time by managing battery consumption; ShadowPlay tracks achievements and captures video; and Optimus optimizes laptop Asus for performance and battery life.
Though it isn't ready to disclose the GX501's full specs just yet, what Asus has revealed suggests the GTX 960m card will be surrounded with worthy hardware.
The GX501 will have the option of a 4K display, with a resolution of 3840 x 2160, or standard HD. Asus also has improved the gaming laptop's cooling system for stealthier performance.
Asus apparently kept a watchful eye on the processor competition before solidifying its plans for the GX501.
Intel recently announced its long-awaited Broadwell chips, but they are in their "tick" phase and haven't hit their powerful "tock" just yet.
Also passed over was AMD, which has struggled to compete with both Nvidia and Intel in the GPU wars. Still, the red team isn't out of the game yet, according to Ted Pollack, senior gaming analyst at Jon Peddie Research.
"AMD is not giving up that I know of," Pollack told TechNewsWorld. "The price to performance trade-off in some AMD machines presents a compelling option for some consumers."
Despite AMD's persistence and its loyal following, besting Nvidia has become more of challenge as it has deepened its push into tablets and laptops.
Future of Gaming Laptops
Despite the rise of mobile gaming machines, tablets and smartphones, laptops in general are thriving, according to Mike Schramm, manager of qualitative insights at EEDAR.
"We're not seeing mobile gaming overlapping with laptop gaming," he told TechNewsWorld. "Most gamers are using laptops to play desktop-style PC games."
Gamers are willing to buy high-end laptops to play AAA titles -- big budget games -- but they view it as a separate experience from mobile gaming, Schramm pointed out.
"It's not a 1:1 comparison, in other words," he said. "Players will enjoy Monument Valley on a tablet, but then go and play League of Legends on their laptop as well."
Never Say Die
There's always going to be a market for PCs and laptops, thanks to gaming and productivity, said Tim Coulling, senior analyst at Canalys. Times are changing, though, which is why hardware manufacturers are leaning on gaming.
"When you look at the total market, you've got [average sales prices] declining quite rapidly at the low end," he told TechNewsWorld. "So it's very difficult for the likes of Asus or any of the other vendors to make money in the wider notebook and desktop market."
While the money may be fading at the lower end, PCs will continue to have a place in homes indefinitely, according to Coulling.
"Some things require a bit more heavy lifting -- things that you can't do on a tablet or a smartphone -- even basic spreadsheets," he observed. "People always go to a PC to do that, because you have the keyboard and mouse. It's a bit easier to use that instead of a touchscreen."
Open sourcing the code for Microsoft Windows is "definitely possible," Microsoft engineer Mark Russinovich reportedly said last week during a panel discussion at ChefConf.
When asked about Russinovich's comments, Microsoft was noncommittal.
"We have not made any open source policy or business model changes for Windows," the company said in a statement provided to LinuxInsider by spokesperson Abby Smith.
While open source may not be in Windows' immediate future, Russinovich's remarks are a strong indication that the Microsoft of today isn't the trenchant foe of the paradigm it was in the past.
Open source code has become a part of business life, and Microsoft has accommodated that reality, he acknowledged during the ChefConf session.
"I think Mark's comments were made in the spirit of Microsoft always willing to examine opportunities and do what it takes to succeed in the market," said Wes Miller, a research analyst at Directions on Microsoft.
"To me, his comments were a promissory note that Microsoft is willing to do things different than before -- not that there's any sort of imminent plan to make Windows open source," he told LinuxInsider.
Rather than make all of Windows open source at once, Microsoft probably would open source parts of the operating system, suggested IDC analyst Al Gillen.
"It's much more likely to be something where they pick specific technologies or specific parts of the product and they open source them, like they've done with .Net," he told LinuxInsider.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see something like that happen in the mobile and embedded space before it happens in the server space," Gillen added.
Grappling with New Paradigm
Those who may be enthused about an open source version of Windows, shouldn't hold their breath.
"Russinovich may be five to 10 years ahead of reality," said Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst of Moor Insights and Strategy.
"It is a possibility, but only as Microsoft moves their business model to services," he told LinuxInsider.
Windows sales will be a declining source of revenue for Microsoft in the coming years, Moorhead explained. "They can see the handwriting on the wall."
Ironically, making Windows open source could be a way to milk the old cash cow in the future.
"Open source doesn't necessarily mean free," Moorhead noted. "You'd likely have an enterprise version with paid support."
Still Russinovich's remarks reveal a new attitude at Microsoft.
"It shows how far Microsoft has come with its thinking," Moorhead added. "It's reacting to a new competitive paradigm."
If Microsoft wants to remain relevant in the market, it will move toward open source Windows sooner rather than later, maintained Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst at Tirias Research.
However, the problem remains how to make up any revenues lost by tinkering with the Windows business model.
"Microsoft has done a very poor job of expanding or changing its business models. Microsoft has wanted to expand into new markets, but it hasn't been willing to change its business model to do so," McGregor told LinuxInsider.
"What will eventually happen is Microsoft collapses -- which I don't see happening -- or they become less relevant in some of the new markets," he observed.
"I think it would be in Microsoft's best interest to open source Windows, but without something to replace the Windows revenue that's a huge bite to take," said McGregor.
"Now they're at the point where they have decreasing revenues, and they realize that trend isn't going to end any time soon," he added. "So now they're at the point where they have to do something -- not at the point where they should do something."