Nvidia has announced that it hopes hackers will look to its Shield portable console for their next development challenge, releasing the source code for the Android operating system along with binary driver packages.

Announced earlier this year under the working title Project Shield, Nvidia's Sheild is at its heart a small Android tablet mated to an Xbox-inspired controller. As well as providing access to casual Android-based games - the complexity of which is ever-evolving - the system mates with desktops or laptops featuring compatible GeForce graphics chips to stream PC games onto its compact screen in full 720p glory.

Now, Nvidia has released the source code for the device's operating system in order to encourage the development of software - not just add-on applications, mind, but entire revisions to the underlying operating system.

Before getting too excited, however, it's worth pointing out that the operating system itself is just a straightforward stock installation of Android. Further, Nvidia isn't actually releasing the source code for the device's graphics drivers - instead bundling a binary-blob driver with the package, much as it offers for Linux users of its desktop and laptop graphics hardware.

With that said, the source released by Nvidia is enough for developers to begin production of modified and third-party Android-based images for the device. Such images, the company has explained, will be flashable onto retail Shield hardware without restriction - and the company has made a factory recovery image available should users wish to return their Shields to stock images.

Thus far, Nvidia has not provided an international launch schedule for the console, stating that it wants to use feedback from its US-exclusive launch to tailor the device before releasing it elsewhere.

The source packages are available now on the official Shield developer site, for both the original software version and the latest over-the-air update.
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