Nintendo’s latest console, the hybrid home/handheld Switch, runs a custom operating-system, but it could’ve had a lot more in common with Android, according to a key figure from that scene.
Cyanogen Inc. executive chairman Kirt McMaster claimed in a now-deleted tweet that Nintendo approached his company to create an operating system for a “certain portable.” McMaster said he turned down that offer. While Cyanogen is now a major Android software company, it started as the go-to team for custom operating systems for anyone who wanted to speed up their early Android devices. CyanogenMod, which would typically take the base version of Android and power it up with custom kernels and other tweaks, ended up on a significant portion of rooted smartphones running Google’s mobile OS.
And a version of the CyanogenMod software could’ve ended up on a Nintendo device.
“In the early days of Cyanogen, Nintendo wanted us to create an OS for a certain portable,” McMaster wrote in a tweet (as first reported by XDA-Developers). “I told them to stick it.”
In the end, Nintendo didn’t end up using Cyanogen or CyanogenMod for any of its devices. The Switch is most likely the device Nintendo wanted McMaster’s help with because the 3DS came out in 2011, and CyanogenMod only started in 2009. It takes a couple of years for companies like Nintendo to research and develop their products, so the timeline makes more sense for the Switch.
Because of Cyangoen’s alleged refusal, Nintendo ended up designing a custom operating system for the Switch that takes parts of the Unix-like FreeBSD operating system. McMaster claims that the Switch even still uses parts of Android.
— Kirt McMaster (@kynprime) March 21, 2017
“Bits of Android” makes sense because Switch runs on Nvidia’s Tegra X1 hardware, which is the same chip that is in Nvidia’s Android-based Shield TV microconsole. That processor is already optimized for Android, so it’s likely that Nintendo incorporated some of that code to keep the system running smoothly.