Google, Nvidia bringing Android to Tegra chips

Nvidia on Monday said it is working with Google to build support for Linux applications on smartphones with its upcoming Tegra mobile chips.

Nvidia on Monday said it is working with Google to build support for Linux applications on smartphones with its upcoming Tegra mobile chips.

The company has allied with Google and the Open Handset Alliance to support the open-source Android software stack, which is increasingly being adopted by smartphone makers including Samsung and HTC.

Primarily known as a graphics card vendor, Nvidia said Tegra chips would bring advanced graphics capabilities to smartphones while drawing less power.

The support for the Android platform is an attempt to drive up Tegra's adoption among smartphone makers. Nvidia is displaying an Android-based phone with a Tegra chip at the GSMA Mobile World Congress being held in Barcelona from Monday to Thursday.

Tegra-based phones will combine advanced graphics, better battery life and always-on Internet access, Nvidia said in a press release. Smartphone makers can now use the Android platform to build Web 2.0 and Internet-based applications for Tegra-based smartphones, the company said.

Tegra chips put an Arm-based processor core, a GeForce graphics core and other components on a single chip. The product lineup includes the Tegra 600 running at 700MHz and Tegra 650 running at 800MHz. It also includes Tegra APX 2500 and APX 2600.

The systems-on-chips will start shipping in mid-2009 for handheld devices like smartphones and mobile Internet devices. Nvidia couldn't immediately name companies that may ship smartphones with the chips. However, an analyst last week speculated that Microsoft would launch a smartphone with Tegra's APX 2600 chip at MWC.

Beyond open-source support, Tegra chips also support Windows-based applications. At last year's MWC, Nvidia announced Tegra would support Windows Mobile and enable 3D user interfaces and high-definition video on smartphones.

Nvidia also wants to help bring about mobile Internet devices (MIDs) for US$100 with Tegra chips. Mobile Internet devices are handheld communication and Internet devices that fall somewhere between a sub-notebook and a smartphone.

A $99 Tegra-based MID is expected to be announced by Nvidia at MWC. The MID includes full high-definition 1080p video playback and full Wi-Fi and 3G mobile broadband connectivity capabilities. The always-on device can go "days" between battery charges, a company spokesman said.

Other than saying similar MIDs would ship in the second half, the company provided no further details about the product.

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