Sony: Android and Nvidia go together

Sony's endorsement of Nvidia silicon for its upcoming Android tablet makes Tegra the chip of choice for Android tablets. At least for now.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Sony's adoption of Nvidia silicon for its upcoming Android tablets makes the graphics chip supplier--at least for the time being--the hardware standard for the Android tablet world, as a Sony vice president articulated in an interview in Japan on Wednesday.

"For the tablet platform, we're standardizing on Android 3.0 and Nvidia's Tegra 2," said Kunimasa Suzuki, a senior vice president at Sony in an interview with Japan-based Impress Watch.

Suzuki's comments come after Sony unveiled two Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablets on Tuesday. One has a 9.4-inch (1280-by-800) display and front and rear cameras, while the other is "foldable" and uses two 5.5-inch displays. Both tablets, due in the fall, will run Android 3.0 on top of Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor.

Sony 'S1' tablet. Like Motorola's and Toshiba's Honeycomb tablets, it uses an Nvidia Tegra chip.
Sony 'S1' tablet. Like Motorola's and Toshiba's Honeycomb tablets, it uses an Nvidia Tegra chip. Sony

Sony's tablet, in this respect, will mimic Motorola and its Xoom tablet, which also sports Honeycomb and an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. And others, including Toshiba, have similar Honeycomb-Nvidia tablets on the way.

Will Strauss, president of wireless chip market research firm Forward Concepts, said that companies like Sony and Motorola are using Nvidia because of the strength of its graphics performance. "In talking to people [in the industry] that's what I'm hearing," Strauss said.

But Google's endorsement of--and standardization on--Nvidia's Tegra technology early on before Android 3.0 was finalized for the Motorola Xoom has probably been the biggest factor in making Nvidia's chip, practically speaking, the only choice right now for Honeycomb.

That said, Nvidia is not Intel. And this is not the PC industry where there is one dominant player. Large chip companies like Texas Instruments and Qualcomm also make processors based on the ARM architecture. Those chips can--and do--run Android. And add LG Electronics, which this week signed a new license agreement with ARM, to that list too.

"In some cases, it's I'm Catholic and they're Catholic so let's use that," Strauss said. "Some people would prefer to use [Texas Instruments'] OMAP 4 processor because they like that graphics better," he added.

Until that happens on a commercial Honeycomb tablet, however, Nvidia is the de-facto standard. So much so that Sony's Suzuki is aware that the adoption of Android and Nvidia threatens the perception of a "uniquely Sony" tablet, he said in the interview.

He spelled four areas where the Japanese company intends to distinguish itself, including "optimizing" the combination of hardware and software and focusing on "networked entertainment" in which Sony tablets can communicate with a variety of consumer devices.