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11-07-2012, 01:25 AM #1
Apple's GPU Vendor Imagination Technologies Acquires MIPS Technologies
Imagination Technologies, the company behind the PowerVR GPU cores used in Apple’s A-series iOS chips, recently acquired MIPS, one of the few remaining CPU architectures outside of Intel, ARM and PowerPC. According to a report by Anandtech, Imagination will be buying MIPS for $60 million in cash, a figure that includes 82 patents related to the firm’s MIPS processor architecture.
Unfortunately for Imagination Technologies, another 580 patents and patent applications owned by MIPS were sold for $350 million to Bridge Crossing, a consortium that includes ARM and other members of the Allied Security Trust, including HP, IBM, and Intel. The consortium works to prevent critical CPU patents from being obtained by patent trolls.
For those of you who didn't know, Apple secretly licensed advanced PowerVR GPU technology from Imagination back in 2008, when the company was expected to be using Intel’s Silverthorne (now called Atom) chips for its anticipated new tablet. Apple developed its own custom chip design based on ARM CPU cores and PowerVR graphics cores instead of going with Intel. The design that was designed was called the A4, which the Cupertino California company used in the original iPad and iPhone 4.
The elimination of MIPS ends up leaving ARM and Intel with increasingly fewer competitors among CPU architectures. The open licensing of ARM’s IP has resulted in high competition among its licensees, with Apple being a leading producer and consumer of ARM-based chips. The competition of ARM licensees among high end chip designs continues to dwindle though, especially with companies such as Texas Instruments announcing plans to exit the mobile chip business. The announcement ended up killing the OMAP-5 ARM design that would have directly competed with Apple’s A6 chip.