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Apple partner Imagination announces new plan to take on ARM

post #1 of 34
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Imagination Technologies, the mobile graphics chip company of which Apple is part owner, is set to announce a partnership with fellow chipmaker MIPS Technologies in an effort to counter competitor ARM Holdings.

According to EETimes, the partnership will be announced this week at the Embedded Systems Conference in Silicon Valley. As first reported by AppleInsider in 2008, Apple purchased a 3 percent stake in Imagination Technologies, and last year the iPhone maker increased its share to 9.5 percent. Imagination Technologies is responsible for the PowerVR graphics technology inside the iPhone and iPod touch.

Imagination's forthcoming partnership with MIPS Technologies aims to help customers who license chip designs from both firms. While MIPS processors are often found in set top boxes, the company has reportedly launched an initiative to move into the handset space. The agreement will not involve the sharing of intellectual property between the two companies -- yet.

Art Swift, vice president of marketing for MIPS, said such a partnership could happen in the future, with co-development between the two companies. But for now, the non-exclusive marketing alliance aims to help offer support to customers that offer system-on-a-chip designs using processing cores from both companies. Swift said that a "series of announcements" between the two companies are forthcoming.

While Apple is a part-owner of Imagination, it also is a licensee of ARM's chip designs, and has even been rumored to be eyeing the company for a potential purchase. However, those rumors were quickly downplayed by the CEO of ARM, who said he saw little benefit in Apple, or anyone, buying his company.

The partnership between Imagination and MIPS was described by EETimes as a "shot across the bow" to competitor ARM. But Tony King-Smith, vice president of marketing for Imagination, said his company will continue to work with ARM and its licensees. He added that Imagination believes Apple will continue to utilize the PowerVR core in its future handsets.

Apple has been making moves in the chip industry in recent years, with recent evidence indicating that Apple purchased chip designer Intrinsity, which is believed to help build the speedy 1GHz A4 custom processor found inside the iPad. Apple also bought fabless chip designer P.A. Semi for $278 million in 2008.
post #2 of 34
Well, isn't this interesting?
post #3 of 34
Things are getting curiouser and curiouser.
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post #4 of 34
Popcorn please
post #5 of 34
More twists and turns than a welsh road.
post #6 of 34
MIPS Technologies is one of those companies that never recovered from the 2000 internet bubble burst.
post #7 of 34
This is fascinating, something big will happen in the coming years for Apple.
post #8 of 34
Does Apple interest in AMD has something to do with this? Could AMD design a better mobile graphics chip that would interest Apple?
post #9 of 34
This may lead to fragmentation of iPhones if this goes where I think it may go.
post #10 of 34
Not sure if Apple would purposefully solicit that many graphic chip vendors for their mobile devices, but they really should turn their focus on one or two partners to avoid different tech in their various products.
post #11 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by MySchizoBuddy View Post

MIPS Technologies is one of those companies that never recovered from the 2000 internet bubble burst.

Wow... that's for sure!

Wonder if this is more of an "I'm not dead yet" thing or if they have some ideas for innovation...
post #12 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

This may lead to fragmentation of iPhones if this goes where I think it may go.

If it's just the chipset were taking about, then there's nothing you should worry about. Look how Apple transitioned from ppc to x86 architectures. With their new LLVM compiler strategy, code can simply work on any hardware devices. With the upcoming IPhone OS 4 supporting LLVM, future applications can work optimally in future devices. Why do you think Apple is pushing developers to comply with 3.3.1? This isn't about 3rd party toolset but more to futureproofing their codebase. Just like Adobe's Carbon to Cocoa API fiasco.
post #13 of 34
Imagination sells their cores to lots of companies including Intel. Nothing about this announcement says anything at all about Apple using MIPS cores in future devices. Frankly I'm not to sure MIPS will ever be able to catch up with ARM technology as it is.

I just find it perplexing that an announcement like this generates almost a half dozen posts of hand wringing and fear that Apple will be using MIPS processors in the future. Maybe they will most likely not but the message says nothing about that. Imagination is an IP company, they don't make money unless they sell that IP to other companies.



Dave
post #14 of 34
Imagination sells their cores to lots of companies including Intel. Nothing about this announcement says anything at all about Apple using MIPS cores in future devices. Frankly I'm not to sure MIPS will ever be able to catch up with ARM technology as it is.

I just find it perplexing that an announcement like this generates almost a half dozen posts of hand wringing and fear that Apple will be using MIPS processors in the future. Maybe they will most likely not but the message says nothing about that. Imagination is an IP company, they don't make money unless they sell that IP to other companies.



Dave
post #15 of 34
Isn't anyone else very curious as to what the p.a. semi folk have been up to? Because there are no known facts of any involvement with current products...
post #16 of 34
Apple is in the chip business now, prepare for some serious synergy induced "snappier" products...
post #17 of 34
hmmm...I recently added to my ARM holdings--the rising ship theory of investment and all that. Now I wonder how this news will affect me. Maybe this is a tactic to help aapl in its rumored strategy of acquiring ARM?
post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

This may lead to fragmentation of iPhones if this goes where I think it may go.

Given Apple's amazing history of smooth platform migrations (MC68K->PPC32->PPC64->X86->X64), this won't be a problem if developers are all using Xcode.
post #19 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

More twists and turns than a welsh road.

More twists then a politicians backbone.

More twists and turns than my reason to the wife why I need an Ipad.

Definitely some interesting stuff there.
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post #20 of 34
Which way will Apple side with? This is making my head spin in speculating what Apple's moves will be. Good times!
post #21 of 34
MIPS do have a 64-bit variant, which ARM doesn't currently have, although almost certainly is hard at work on for the next generation of ARM cores. With mobile phones coming with 512MB of memory this year, it's only a few years until they start hitting the 32-bit limit!

Aside from that, there's nothing much more to read into this apart from a company working with another company for mutual benefit.
post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

MIPS do have a 64-bit variant, which ARM doesn't currently have, although almost certainly is hard at work on for the next generation of ARM cores. With mobile phones coming with 512MB of memory this year, it's only a few years until they start hitting the 32-bit limit!

Aside from that, there's nothing much more to read into this apart from a company working with another company for mutual benefit.

+1

MIPS would have to announce something truly groundbreaking to get Apple's undivided attention. Apple already has all the access they need to the PowerVR stuff.
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post #23 of 34
We're just a hop, skip and a jump away from having full-blown iPhone tricorders (a la Star Trek)!

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post #24 of 34
This is certainly interesting news. Too many possibilities at this point to even make general speculations that sound feasible.
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post #25 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

This may lead to fragmentation of iPhones if this goes where I think it may go.

with OpenCL on iPhone, I think it'll be less of a problem.
post #26 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

We're just a hop, skip and a jump away from having full-blown iPhone tricorders (a la Star Trek)!

"Set phasers to stun"
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post #27 of 34
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Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

"Set phasers to stun"

Set iPhones to stunning!

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post #28 of 34
This news is very very interesting!

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post #29 of 34
All this "its so interesting"
bottom line
will this allow apple toaquire arm?
Make it's own chips?
Combine talents

I have yet to understand the purpose of pasemi purchase
is the talent helping produce new chips
does apple need chip IP or chip manufacturing or both
how does this add apple value
I'm sure SJ is thinking 1 3 5 10 years from now
is there a better architecture for mobile OS
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post #30 of 34
like I said before what's the dark horse of pa semi doing? that's what I really wonder...
post #31 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by zindako View Post

Not sure if Apple would purposefully solicit that many graphic chip vendors for their mobile devices, but they really should turn their focus on one or two partners to avoid different tech in their various products.

apple always use multiple partners to make 1 product/ chip they usually take the the best design and ditch the others
post #32 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustReelFilms View Post

If it's just the chipset were taking about, then there's nothing you should worry about. Look how Apple transitioned from ppc to x86 architectures. With their new LLVM compiler strategy, code can simply work on any hardware devices. With the upcoming IPhone OS 4 supporting LLVM, future applications can work optimally in future devices.

False. It is not as simple as that. Although that is the intention, we are not there yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Imagination sells their cores to lots of companies including Intel. Nothing about this announcement says anything at all about Apple using MIPS cores in future devices. Frankly I'm not to sure MIPS will ever be able to catch up with ARM technology as it is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

+1

MIPS would have to announce something truly groundbreaking to get Apple's undivided attention. Apple already has all the access they need to the PowerVR stuff.

Again, all these rumors doesn't make any sense.
MIPS is an IP company, therefore nothing ground breaking will go unannounced a year or two before hand.

MIPS was never designed to be ultra low power ( Compare to ARM ). While it certainly fits Set Top Box or other Appliance, it doesn't scale down to SmartPhone PDA level.
Compare to ARM which is working its way upward.

MIPS hasn't had any improvement to its core for a some time. Compare to ARM which just released their Cortex.

So MIPS is pretty much dead.
post #33 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by myapplelove View Post

Isn't anyone else very curious as to what the p.a. semi folk have been up to? Because there are no known facts of any involvement with current products...

PA Semi no longer exists within Apple. The staff that haven't left have already been integrated into positions on Apple's iPod/iPhone teams. For example, Wei-Han Lien from PA Semi is just the Senior Manager, ARM CPU Architecture, which of course is working on iPhone/iPad.

Jobs said PA Semi was acquired to work on future iPods/iPhones (and obviously now, iPads, but that was still a secret back then). Do you have any evidence they are not?
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post #34 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

This may lead to fragmentation of iPhones if this goes where I think it may go.

Where do you think it may go?

I don't see this story having any impact on Apple.

And I don't see how Imagination working to make their PowerVR tech integrate better with MIPS tech leads to any fragmentation of iPhones. In fact, it would make it easier for Apple to switch to MIPS if Apple ever was to decide to do that.
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