Nvidia has been outlining a future that sees a Qualcomm/Nvidia duopoly providing processors for every computing platform, which will share apps as well as chips.
Nvidia's CEO has been briefing journalists, including C-Net's Roger Cheng, pointing out that the company's Tegra chipsets are already powering half of the Android smartphones, and 70 per cent of tablets, and are looking forward to getting radio signal processing integrated too. But the CEO also made clear his belief that applications developed for Windows Phone 7 would find themselves happy running on Windows Desktop 8.
That's not something Microsoft has said, not publicly at least, but it is also not a huge jump once Windows 8 is running on an ARM core, and given that Windows Phone 7 applications are developed using Silverlight and XNA.
Apple has certainly gained from the closeness of iOS and OS X, though it has stopped short of combining them so far. Steven Sinofsky, Windows Live president, recently hinted that Windows 8 might have two separate interfaces: the touch-friendly Windows-Phone-like Metro and something more suited to the keyboards and mice with which we are familiar. Making Metro support Windows Phone 7 apps would seem a small step indeed.
But Nvidia is more interested in talking about a future without Intel, where everything is ARM-based and Qualcomm is the only other company with significant market share.
It's an interesting shift, particularly since the trend had been to reduce component counts by integrating graphics into the processor. Nvidia came from the other direction – integrating a processor into its graphics – and has done very nicely out of the increased demand for responsive GUIs, and applications, on mobile devices.
Both Qualcomm and Nvidia are ARM licensees, using the low-power processor core architecture designed by the chaps up in Cambridge. Qualcomm's Snapdragon chip integrates that with graphics and radio processing, while the Tegra hasn't got radio integrated yet (but coming soon) but draws on the company's history of graphic innovation.
It's easy to discount Intel in such a race – ARM is the brand everyone is looking for these days – but Intel is still making billions of dollars every year, enough to fund a MeeGo or two in the hope of creating a proper response to Microsoft's defection. ®