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Home Tech NVIDIA is making a desktop mode, possibly for a new 2-in-1 SHIELD...

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

NVIDIA is best known for its desktop and laptop GPUs, but the company's SoCs for mobile devices have been very successful. The highly successful Nintendo Switch is based on the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC, making the switch the most popular mobile product with a Tegra chipset. However, the Nintendo Switch is not the only mobile device with Tegra hardware, as it was already supported by NVIDIA SHIELD Portable, Tegra Note 7 and SHIELD Tablet. Although NVIDIA has discontinued all three products and abandoned the plans to release a new SHIELD tablet in 2016, the company may be preparing to introduce new hardware. According to the code we reviewed in the latest SHIELD Experience software, a new desktop-mode software feature is in development for a new product code-named "mystique". In addition, the source code released online by NVIDIA reveals some possible hardware specifications for "mystique," suggesting that it could be a 2-in-1 PC such as the Microsoft Surface Book.

From left to right: The SHIELD Portable, the Tegra Note 7 and the SHIELD Tablet K1.

NVIDIA Desktop Experience

Although NVIDIA already has experience with the development of Android tablets, no new software for the SHIELD Tablet K1 has been published since March 2018. SHIELD Experience 5.4 was the latest version at that time, but over a year later, the software reached version 7.2 .3. Because NVIDIA no longer creates software versions for tablets, the amount of information about the new tablet features that we can get from the latest versions of SHIELD Experience (for Android TV) is limited. NVIDIA's hypothetical under development non-Android TV product will only share certain system apps and framework files with SHIELD TV's existing SHIELD Experience builds, as Android TV is a suite of specialized systems Apps that are not accessible are standard Android builds for tablets or smartphones (like the Leanback Launcher).

Nonetheless, SHIELD TV's latest software release code refers to a new software feature code-named "NvDtExp," which is likely to be short for NVIDIA Desktop Experience. This software feature is certainly not intended for existing SHIELD TV products. It's also unlikely that NVIDIA will upgrade existing tablets with this feature, as it's been a year since the last update of the SHIELD Tablet K1. Finally, the code refers to the product name "mystique", which indicates that the new feature is for this new product.

The code was first discovered by a custom ROM developer who reported his results XDA developers, We've confirmed the existence of this code, which handles switching between the NVIDIA Desktop Experience UI modes in SHIELD Experience production builds that date back to December 2018 and are the latest release of SHIELD Experience 7.2.3 from last month seems. Although SHIELD Experience 7.2 was the first version that included the switcher code for desktop mode, we suspect that NVIDIA developed this feature months before its first public release.

From the code, we can confirm some details about the SHIELD Desktop Experience feature. First, there are three supported UI modes: Dynamic, Tablet, and Desktop. Without an updated launcher and SystemUI from a tablet-specific SHIELD Experience 7.2+ build, we can not confirm the exact differences between the three user interface modes. If we would guess, then the tablet mode is probably a standard Android tablet user interface, the desktop mode is probably a new user interface with a lower taskbar and freeform multi-window support. The dynamic mode is probably a mix of tablet and desktop mode. Desktop UI mode mentions boot menu visibility and mouse movement control. Other aspects of SHIELD Desktop Experience that we see in the current firmware include the ability to set a UI mode at boot time, launch desktop mode when a keyboard is connected, and intercept specific shortcuts to display the status bar. display the Power Menu dialog, close Active windows, or switch to full screen mode.

The unfinished desktop mode in Android Q.

NVIDIA is also testing a way to control the SHIELD Desktop Experience through shell commands and broadcast intents, even though the commands on existing SHIELD TV devices do nothing because the code checks to see if the device is "mystical." In fact, there are several configuration values ​​that are specific to the desktop mode, refer to "mystique". Unfortunately, while we are confident in our understanding of the SHIELD Desktop Experience feature, we are not sure if we know "mystique." Given this code for SHIELD Desktop Having emerged recently, there is no doubt that it is a new development software feature. Since the code exists in the production firmware and contains references to a new, unreleased product, we can also assume that "mystique" is a consumer device running Android. However, the hardware details we have for "mystique" may be outdated.


The "mystique" code name matches the NVIDIA pattern of using Marvel character names. For example, the SHIELD Portable was originally codenamed "thor," although it was later changed to "red." "WX" or Weapon X and "SB" or Songbird have also been used in the past. On the TV front, we've seen codenames like blake, jarvis, pepper, thunderstrike, darcy, and foster. So that's what you're looking for in the public source code for "mystique." First, we learned about the possibility that this was a product under development, but it was our discovery of the SHIELD Desktop Experience feature that earned the points really connected with each other.

Source code from last year shows that "mystique" has a Panasonic 13.5-inch 3000 × 2000 (3: 2) LCD. A 13.5-inch panel would be quite large for a tablet, which is why we believe that "mystique" is a 2-in-1 PC. This idea fits in with what we know about SHIELD Desktop Experience and its 3 UI modes. The Microsoft Surface Book also has a 3000×2000 (3: 2) 13.5-inch display, but I do not think Mystik, if any, will inevitably be a Surface Book contender as we Few information about it has complete specifications. (Interestingly, Tegra 4 Microsoft Surface 2 and Tegra 4 Developer tablets can launch Android, so NVIDIA has a history with the Surface line.)

The Microsoft Surface Book. Source: Microsoft.

At some point, NVIDIA developed "Mysticism" with the Tegra X2 (t186), but recent commits showed mysticism in the device tree for the Tegra Xavier (t194). The Tegra Xavier is a large, high performance chip. This is due to the Jetson AGX Xavier module from the end of 2018. The Jetson can be run with a lower power profile of 10W compared to a maximum of 30W, so that "Mystique" runs at lower power, if that is the case indeed powered by the Xavier SoC. In contrast, the SHIELD Tablet K1 is powered by the 2014 Tegra K1, while the 2016 canceled SHIELD tablet codenamed "hawkeye" with the Tegra X1 as the Nintendo Switch and the SHIELD Android TV should come on the market. With the Tegra Xavier, NVIDIA's most powerful consumer product would become a "mystical" product. However, we need to reiterate our uncertainty about the hardware specifications because the code we discover may not reflect the current status of the product.

Tegra Xavier overview. Source: Michael Ditty, Hot Chips 30: NVIDIA Xavier SoC. (Accessed via WikiChip.)

Uncertainty in a new SHIELD tablet

It may be strange for NVIDIA to re-launch a new mobile product as they discontinued their SHIELD Tablet K1 successor in 2016 on vague "business reasons". The release of the Nintendo Switch probably played a big part in the cancellation of NVIDIA's 2016 tablet, although we do not know. We've contacted NVIDIA to see if the company wants to comment on a summary of our NVIDIA Desktop Experience feature and mystic results. A spokesman for NVIDIA declined to comment, even though he referred me to one of my earlier statements, as well as comments made public by NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang at CES 2019. As a reference, I made the statement here when I wrote previously about the existence of a new SHIELD remote and a SHIELD controller:

It is quite common for different conceptual code names to appear in codebases. These credentials persist even when it is unlikely that the concept ever goes into production. We can not comment on which code names refer to active product concepts and which are inactive as this can be fluent. However, I can confirm that none of the following code names refer to products that have been publicly released.

Regarding Jensen Huang's comments, the speaker linked me to one TechCrunch This article quoted Mr. Huang's comments "during a small press conference." Of course, we came across this article independently as we researched the latest news on NVIDIA's SHIELD line, and we'd already reviewed the relevance to our results. After carefully reading the CEO's comment and discussing the comment with a source at NVIDIA and the author of the article, we concluded that Mr. Huang does not really say that the company has any plans because of Mobile's success Products manufacture third parties like Nintendo. Rather, the CEO says that NVIDIA will not make any new equipment if it's just a minor improvement over the devices currently on the market. Instead, his attitude towards new SHIELD products is such that NVIDIA should only make a new product if it's exciting or innovative.

"We are very committed [Shield TV]but we do not think it's necessary on mobile devices … we would just build things to avoid gaining market share. Nvidia is not a company that deals with the market shares of other providers. I think that's really angry. It's an angry way to run a business. Creating new markets, broadening the horizons, creating things that the world does not have is a loving way to build a business. "- NVIDIA boss Jensen Huang talks to reporters at CES 2019, as Frederic Lardinois reports from TechCrunch,

Is "mystique" an exciting or fantastic product? Given the lack of new Android tablets, it would certainly stand out in the market. There are really no Android-based premium competitors for the larger iPad Pro. Android as a tablet operating system is far less attractive than iOS due to the lack of tablet-optimized apps in previous apps. Therefore, I wonder if the combination of Android with such a powerful hardware makes sense. In addition, the new desktop mode may not be sufficiently used because many Android apps do not properly support multi-window Freeform mode. However, this might change in the future as developers begin to develop Android Q.

I have many questions about the purpose of Mysticism. If the device has a 13.5-inch display, it should have a bigger battery than the existing SHIELD tablets, but the Tegra Xavier still seems to be exaggerating device for consumers. I can not imagine that there will be a huge market for this product when it runs on Android, although it could become a niche product for developers.

NVIDIA has very accurate product plans. Therefore, we can only take a look at the future products that result from what we can find in the code. This means that the information we receive may be inaccurate because it depends on us interpreting the code correctly, or it may be outdated because we can not access the latest source code. Although we are confident that NVIDIA is working on a desktop mode feature, we are less confident in terms of "mysticism", which is quite appropriate given the definition of the dictionary.

Note: The picture shown is for illustrative purposes only. It does not reflect the actually rumored product.

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