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NVIDIA is making a desktop mode, possibly for a new 2-in-1 SHIELD tablet

NVIDIA is making a desktop mode, possibly for a new 2-in-1 SHIELD tablet

NVIDIA is greatest recognized for its desktop and laptop computer GPUs, however the firm’s SoCs for cellular units have had respectable success. The wildly profitable Nintendo Change is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC, making the Change the preferred cellular product with a Tegra chipset. However the Nintendo Change isn’t the one cellular gadget with Tegra hardware because it’s predated by the NVIDIA SHIELD Moveable, Tegra Notice 7, and SHIELD Pill. Though NVIDIA discontinued all three merchandise and canceled plans to launch a brand new SHIELD Pill again in 2016, the corporate might lastly be getting ready to launch new hardware. In line with code we examined inside the newest SHIELD Expertise software program, a brand new desktop-mode software program function is in-development for a brand new product code-named “mystique.” Moreover, supply code revealed on-line by NVIDIA reveals some potential hardware specs for “mystique,” suggesting it could possibly be a 2-in-1 PC just like the Microsoft Floor Ebook.

Left to proper: The SHIELD Moveable, Tegra Notice 7, and SHIELD Pill K1.

NVIDIA Desktop Expertise

Though NVIDIA has expertise constructing Android for tablets, they haven’t launched a brand new software program construct for the SHIELD Pill K1 since March of 2018. SHIELD Expertise 5.four was the newest launch on the time, however over a yr later the software program has reached model 7.2.three. Since NVIDIA not builds software program releases for tablets, the quantity of data on new pill options we will get from the newest SHIELD Expertise releases—constructed for Android TV—is restricted. A hypothetical, in-development non-Android TV product from NVIDIA will solely share sure system apps and framework information with the prevailing SHIELD Expertise builds for the SHIELD TV, provided that Android TV includes a set of specialised system apps that aren’t discovered on normal builds of Android for tablets or smartphones (e.g. the leanback launcher).

Nonetheless, code from the SHIELD TV’s newest software program releases factors to a brand new software program function code-named “NvDtExp,” doubtless brief for NVIDIA Desktop Expertise. This software program function is nearly definitely not meant for the prevailing SHIELD TV merchandise. Additionally it is extremely unlikely for NVIDIA to improve its present tablets with this function, provided that it’s been over a yr since they final launched an replace for the SHIELD Pill K1. Lastly, the code makes many references to the product code-named “mystique,” which recommend the brand new function is meant for this new product.

The code was first found by a customized ROM developer who shared his findings with XDA-Builders. We confirmed the presence of this code, which appears to deal with the switching between UI modes for NVIDIA Desktop Expertise, in manufacturing builds of SHIELD Expertise courting again to December of 2018 and persevering with into the newest SHIELD Expertise 7.2.three launch from final month. Though SHIELD Expertise 7.2 was the primary launch containing the desktop mode switcher code, we suspect that NVIDIA has developed this function for months earlier than its first look in a public launch.

From the code, we will affirm a number of particulars concerning the SHIELD Desktop Expertise function. First, there are three supported UI modes: Dynamic, Pill, and Desktop. With out an up to date launcher and SystemUI from a tablet-specific SHIELD Expertise 7.2+ construct, we will’t affirm the precise UI variations between the three modes. Nevertheless, if we have been to guess, then pill mode is probably going an ordinary Android pill interface, desktop mode is probably going a brand new interface with a backside taskbar and freeform multi-window help, and dynamic mode is probably going some type of hybrid between pill and desktop mode. There are mentions of begin menu visibility and mouse hover management for the desktop UI mode. Different elements of SHIELD Desktop Expertise that we see within the present firmware embrace the power to set a UI mode on boot, begin desktop mode if a keyboard is hooked up, and intercept sure button mixtures to point out the standing bar, present the facility menu dialog, shut lively home windows, or toggle full-screen mode.

The unfinished desktop mode in Android Q.

NVIDIA can also be testing a strategy to management the SHIELD Desktop Expertise by way of shell instructions and broadcast intents, though the instructions don’t do something on present SHIELD TV units because the code checks whether or not the system is “mystique.” In reality, there are a number of configuration values distinctive to the desktop mode function that reference “mystique.” Sadly, though we’re assured in our understanding of the SHIELD Desktop Expertise function, we’re much less sure about our information of “mystique.” Provided that code for SHIELD Desktop Expertise solely just lately surfaced, there’s little doubt that it’s a brand new software program function in-development. Moreover, because the code exists in manufacturing firmware and makes references to a brand new, unreleased product, we will fairly assume that “mystique” is a shopper system operating Android. Nevertheless, the hardware particulars we have now for “mystique” could also be outdated.


The “mystique” code-name matches NVIDIA’s sample of utilizing Marvel character names. For example, the SHIELD Moveable was initially code-named “thor,” although it was later modified to “roth.” “WX,” or Weapon X, and “SB,” or Songbird, have additionally been used prior to now. On the TV entrance, we’ve seen code-names like “blake,” “jarvis,” “pepper,” “thunderstrike,” “darcy,” and “foster.” Thus, recognizing “mystique” in public supply code is what first tipped us off concerning the risk that it’s an in-development product, however it was our discovery of the SHIELD Desktop Expertise function that basically related the dots.

Supply code from final yr exhibits that “mystique” has a 13.5-inch 3000×2000 (three:2) LCD from Panasonic. A 13.5-inch panel can be fairly giant for a pill, which is why we expect “mystique” is as an alternative a 2-in-1 PC. This concept matches with what we all know of SHIELD Desktop Expertise and its three UI modes. Notably, the Microsoft Floor Guide additionally has a 13.5-inch 3000×2000 (three:2) show, however I don’t assume “mystique,” if it exists, will essentially be a Floor Guide competitor since we have now little details about its full specs. (Of curiosity, the Tegra four Microsoft Floor 2 and Tegra four developer pill might boot Android, so NVIDIA has a historical past with the Floor line.)

The Microsoft Floor E-book. Supply: Microsoft.

At one level, NVIDIA was creating “mystique” with the Tegra X2 (t186), however newer commits confirmed “mystique” within the system tree for the Tegra Xavier (t194.) The Tegra Xavier is a big, high-performance chip meant for automotive and AI computing, as seen on the Jetson AGX Xavier module launched in late 2018. The Jetson can function at a decrease 10W energy profile in comparison with a most 30W, so likewise “mystique” can be operating at decrease energy, whether it is certainly powered by the Xavier SoC. In distinction, the SHIELD Pill K1 is powered by the 2014 Tegra K1 whereas the canceled 2016 SHIELD Pill, code-named “hawkeye,” was anticipated to launch with the Tegra X1 just like the Nintendo Change and SHIELD Android TV. Having the Tegra Xavier would make “mystique” NVIDIA’s strongest shopper product, however once more, we’ve got to emphasize our uncertainty in our information of its hardware specs provided that the code we noticed might not mirror the present standing of the product.

Tegra Xavier overview. Supply: Michael Ditty, Scorching Chips 30: NVIDIA Xavier SoC. (Retrieved by way of WikiChip.)

Uncertainty in a brand new SHIELD Pill

It might appear unusual for NVIDIA to re-enter the market with a brand new cellular product provided that they canceled their SHIELD Pill K1 successor in 2016 citing unspecified “enterprise causes.” The discharge of the Nintendo Change doubtless performed an enormous half within the cancellation of NVIDIA’s 2016 pill, although we don’t know. We reached out to NVIDIA to see if the corporate want to touch upon a abstract of our findings relating to the NVIDIA Desktop Expertise function and “mystique.” A spokesperson for NVIDIA declined to remark, although they referred me to a earlier assertion I used to be given in addition to feedback made publicly by NVIDIA’s CEO Jensen Huang at CES 2019. For reference, right here’s the assertion I used to be given once I beforehand wrote concerning the existence of a brand new SHIELD distant and SHIELD controller:

It’s pretty commonplace follow for numerous idea codenames to seem in codebases. These references stay even when it turns into unlikely that the idea ever goes into manufacturing. We will’t touch upon which codenames confer with product ideas which might be lively vs which of them are inactive, as it may be fluid. Nevertheless, I can affirm that not one of the codenames under discuss with merchandise which have launched publicly.

As for the feedback made by Jensen Huang, the spokesperson linked me to a TechCrunch article which cited feedback made by Mr. Huang “throughout a small press gathering.” In fact, we independently got here throughout this text whereas researching the newest information on NVIDIA’s SHIELD line and had already thought-about its relevance to our findings. After rigorously studying the CEO’s remark and discussing the remark with a supply at NVIDIA in addition to the article’s writer, we got here to the conclusion that Mr. Huang shouldn’t be truly saying the corporate has no plans to make new cellular merchandise because of the success of third-parties like Nintendo. Moderately, the CEO is saying that NVIDIA will chorus from making new units in the event that they’re merely minor enhancements upon present units available on the market. As an alternative, his angle towards new SHIELD merchandise is such that NVIDIA ought to solely make a brand new product if it’s thrilling or revolutionary indirectly.

“We’re actually dedicated to [Shield TV]however on cellular units, we don’t assume it’s essential…We might solely construct issues to not achieve market share. Nvidia just isn’t a ‘take any person else’s market share firm.’ I feel that’s actually indignant. It’s an indignant approach to run a enterprise. Creating new markets, increasing the horizon, creating issues that the world doesn’t have, that’s a loving strategy to construct a enterprise.” – NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang, chatting with reporters at CES 2019, as reported by Frederic Lardinois of TechCrunch.

Does “mystique” qualify as an thrilling or superior product? Given the dearth of latest Android tablets, it might definitely stand out out there. There aren’t actually any premium, Android-based rivals to the bigger iPad Professional, in any case. Android as a pill OS is way much less interesting than iOS given the shortage of tablet-optimized apps within the former, so I query whether or not pairing Android with such highly effective hardware is sensible. Moreover, the brand new desktop mode could also be underutilized since many Android apps don’t correctly help freeform multi-window mode, although that would change sooner or later as soon as builders begin constructing for Android Q.

There are numerous questions I’ve concerning the objective of “mystique.” Assuming the gadget has a 13.5-inch show, it ought to have a bigger battery than what’s discovered within the present SHIELD tablets, however the Tegra Xavier nonetheless appears overkill if the gadget for shoppers. I can’t think about there might be an enormous marketplace for this product if it finally ends up operating Android, although it might find yourself being a distinct segment product aimed toward builders.

NVIDIA could be very tight-lipped about its product plans, so the one glimpse we’ve got of its future merchandise come from no matter we will discover in code. Meaning the knowledge we get hold of could possibly be inaccurate because it will depend on us appropriately deciphering the code, or it could possibly be outdated since we don’t have entry to the newest supply code. Whereas we’re assured that NVIDIA is engaged on a desktop mode function, we’re much less assured about all the things surrounding “mystique,” which is sort of becoming given the time period’s dictionary definition.

Notice: The featured picture is for illustrative functions solely. It doesn’t mirror the precise rumored product.

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