Slides that were presented by NVIDIA to the financial community are generating some buzz as they show NVIDIA’s intent to enter the Windows Phone and Windows 8 (my guess) markets. This is an intermediate-term project (early 2013) that creates a new branch from the previous Roadmap we saw at Mobile World Congress. Code-named Grey, this new NVIDIA system on a chip (SoC) seems to be targeting the Windows Phone market. It will also use technology from the Icera acquisition.
As you may know, current Windows Phones run with Qualcomm’s chips, but it is not an exclusive deal, and it is not a technical requirement in the sense that Qualcomm has hardware feature that no-one else does. Today, Qualcomm chips equip Windows Phone because Microsoft used it as the reference platform to develop their operating system. The Windows Phone team is very “hands-on” when it comes to programming drivers, and simply put, there is not enough Microsoft engineers to write for every hardware out there.This will change soon. For one, the upcoming Nokia WP7 devices will be powered by an ST-Ericsson chip. Also, NVIDIA has already demonstrated its Kal-El/Tegra3 chip running Windows 8 and on Android. As Windows Phone’s architecture stabilizes, it is likely that hardware vendors will take over the driver development, which means that more choices will be available to WP7 handset makers.
By the way, you may have noticed that NVIDIA’s codename for its chips are derived from super-hero names. Kal-El for Superman, Wayne for Batman, and Jean Grey for “Phoenix” (X-Men). It maybe because once upon a time, NVIDIA’s mobile effort was focused on Windows CE, and in some ways, this is a “renaissance” (I’m just speculating of course). In any case, NVIDIA will need time to build a Windows mobile software team.