Apple ditching Imagination Technologies GPU technology, moving design in-house

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2017
Apple is pulling out of a partnership with Imagination Technologies, the British company behind the graphics technology used in iOS devices, with Apple's decision to stop using Imagination's intellectual property within two years prompting the UK firm's shares to plunge in value by more than 60 percent.




Imagination was advised by Apple that it will stop using the firm's intellectual property in new products in 15 months to two years time, a statement from Imagination reveals. The change means a significant reduction in revenue for Imagination, as it will not be eligible for royalty payments under the current license and royalty agreement.

Apple's license fees and royalties represent revenue of 60.7 million ($75.8 million) for the 2015-2016 financial year, Imagination advises, which are expected to rise to approximately 65 million ($81 million) for the year ending April 2017.

Apple's decision caused Imagination Technologies Group PLC's share price to fall dramatically on the London stock exchange on Monday. At the end of trading on Friday March 31, Imagination shares were valued at 268.75p, but dropped down to just 84p shortly after the markets opened on Monday morning.

At the time of publication, the share price has risen slightly to 102.5p, but this still represents a drop of over 61 percent from the end of the previous trading session.

Imagination is the creator of mobile graphics processing architectures, most notably its PowerVR architecture, which is used in a number of smartphones, tablets, and other compact devices. Apple uses the company's architecture in many of its products, including iPhones, iPads, the Apple TV, Apple Watch, and iPods.

Last month, Imagination revealed a next-generation GPU architecture called PowerVR Furian, a power-efficient architecture that will apparently better serve virtual reality and augmented reality applications. The first GPU core variants based on Furian are likely to be announced in mid-2017, with products using Furian GPUs potentially shipping by the end of 2018.

The move away from Imagination may be part of an attempt by Apple to take more control over the design of its hardware. Apple was said to be in talks to acquire Imagination early last year, though ultimately no such deal was made.

Apple has also taken time to poach a number of Imagination's staff over the last two years, including GPU architects and designers. These employees could help Apple to produce its own graphics architecture, potentially saving it from having to pay royalty fees to Imagination for using its intellectual property.

According to Imagination's statement, Apple has asserted that it has been "working on a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products."

Imagination is also seemingly suggesting there could be a legal fight in the future over the in-house graphics architecture move, declaring Apple has not presented any evidence to substantiate its assertion that it will no longer require Imagination's technology, without violating Imagination's patents, intellectual property, and confidential information. While evidence has been requested by Imagination, Apple has declined to provide any to the company.

Imagination believes that it would be extremely challenging to design a brand new GPU architecture from basics without infringing its intellectual property rights, so in the statement about the matter, Imagination does not accept Apple's assertions. The company has also attempted to discuss potential alternative commercial arrangements with Apple for the current license and royalty agreement.

Read our followup feature on Apple's GPU plans: As Apple's GPU plans go public, Imagination fears becoming a tech orphan
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 65
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,507member
    This story is jumping around everywhere. I first thought it was an April Fool's joke, but then I checked the date.

    this brings up all sorts of questions.
    GeorgeBMacqwwerarepressthiscornchip
  • Reply 2 of 65
    So this suggests what a few of Apple's thousands and thousands of employees are working on:  engineers to write a GPU architecture from scratch and lawyers to convince a judge and jury that it wrote a GPU architecture from scratch.
    williamlondonqwweraedredjbdragonbrakken
  • Reply 3 of 65
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,909member
    There's more GPU IP in the world than what Imagination owns. 

    For one thing there's a little company called ARM that Apple appears to have a relationship with. There's another company named AMD -- Apple has been curiously committed to using AMD GPUs in Macs. If Apple ends up using a semi-custom Zen SOC in a new Mac this year, that would be an indicator that they might be licensing tech from AMD. 

    In short, lots of options for Apple. It's unlikely that Apple really has much to fear regarding patent lawsuits. Imagination should have accepted Apple's buyout offer. 


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 65
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,259member
    And right on cue Imagination vomits out the patent angle. Yeah good luck in court. 


    repressthisjbdragonedreddysamoriawatto_cobracornchip
  • Reply 5 of 65
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,969member
    Kinda makes being an Apple supplier a crapshoot doesn’t it.
    digital_guygatorguyrandominternetpersonbdkennedy1002argonautrepressthiscornchip
  • Reply 6 of 65
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,307member
    melgross said:
    This story is jumping around everywhere. I first thought it was an April Fool's joke, but then I checked the date.

    this brings up all sorts of questions.
    Yes, I think there is a lot more to this story than anything we will ever hear about:
    -- Apple poaches employees from a partner
    -- Apple tries to buy the partner but fails
    -- Apple walks away from a long term partner and, by doing so, may cause that partner to fail...

    I think what we are seeing & reading may be the tip of the iceberg....


    qwwerarepressthisbrakken
  • Reply 7 of 65
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,969member
    sog35 said:
    Imagine should have accepted Apple's very generous buy out offer.....
    Well with the stock dropping 70% maybe should have. Or is this a play by Apple to do just that?
    retrogustoJanNLanton zuykovargonautqwwerarepressthisjbdragonalanh
  • Reply 8 of 65
    CuJoYYCCuJoYYC Posts: 22member
    According to Imagination's statement, Apple has asserted that it has been working on a "working on a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products." Pretty sure you meant: According to Imagination's statement, Apple has asserted that it has been "working on a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products."
  • Reply 9 of 65
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,945member
    Apple knows well. Had thought though all scenarios including future competition from Qualcomm, Samsung , etc who uses the same ARM architecture. Now, there are stronger players in graphics like AMD, Nividia who Apple could partner with. In future, critics of Apple's decision in hind sights will agree that it was the right decision going forward.
    cornchip
  • Reply 10 of 65
    It seems to me someone from Imagination over looked some things.  We all know Apple is committed to controlling key aspects of their products as we have seen with the A series, M series and S series chips...Surely imagination ran through the scenarios...would seem to me that they miscalculated something.
    GeorgeBMaccornchip
  • Reply 11 of 65
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    lkrupp said:
    Kinda makes being an Apple supplier a crapshoot doesn’t it.
    Sure does, at least those that go all in with Apple, neglecting to expand their customer base. I always wondered why Imagination's stock price yoyo'd on a regular basis. 
    But then the small innovative outfits with unique products get a $B lottery ticket chance. 
    I wouldn't be surprised if Apple wanted Imagination's sole attention but there are limitations here in the UK regarding honoring existing contracts when take-overs are decided. You can't just cut them off. 
    I also wonder what Apple has up it's sleeve? They must have evaluated Furian so a backwards step is unimaginable. 
    Apple: "We control our destiny" is being hammered home. 
    argonautrepressthis
  • Reply 12 of 65
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,871member
    And right on cue Imagination vomits out the patent angle. Yeah good luck in court. 


    Damage control to fuel hopes that there may be some revenue in the future.
    lkrupp said:
    Kinda makes being an Apple supplier a crapshoot doesn’t it.
    What's a bit surprising is that they gave them 15-24 months lead time. Actually, a pretty stand-up move that could possibly allow Imagination spend the next year or so getting new customers before the revenue dries up.
    StrangeDaysargonautrepressthisdysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 65
    jameskatt2jameskatt2 Posts: 715member
    lkrupp said:
    Kinda makes being an Apple supplier a crapshoot doesn’t it.

    Not really. You simply have to be the best in the world and make yourself thus valuable.
    If you miss a step, Apple can throw you away for better. 
  • Reply 14 of 65
    jameskatt2jameskatt2 Posts: 715member
    Apple should simply buy AMD as I told Tim and Phil to.
    williamlondonrepressthis
  • Reply 15 of 65
    melgross said:
    This story is jumping around everywhere. I first thought it was an April Fool's joke, but then I checked the date.

    this brings up all sorts of questions.
    Yes, I think there is a lot more to this story than anything we will ever hear about:
    -- Apple poaches employees from a partner
    -- Apple tries to buy the partner but fails
    -- Apple walks away from a long term partner and, by doing so, may cause that partner to fail...

    I think what we are seeing & reading may be the tip of the iceberg....


    Not sure if it was reported in AI before, but I am fairly confident reading in GSMArena long back (more than 1 year) that Apple is working on its own GPU for future generation iphones, ditching Imagination technologies. So I am not surprised by this news. As to poaching of employees, Imagination should have fought with Apple legally then and there, if they had any valid case. Cribbing about it now - they are not going to gain anything. They are a small fish in the sea and would be eaten alive.

    Edit: Just now did a google search "apple working on own GPU". I could see multiple links pointing to Dec-09/10-2015 in page 2. So this is not a secret of Apple by any stretch of imagination (company or people). It was always a question of "when, not if" it would happen.

    edited April 2017 GeorgeBMaccornchip
  • Reply 16 of 65
    GT Advanced Technologies
    repressthis
  • Reply 17 of 65
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,969member
    So in the future... Apple designed CPU and Apple designed GPU. Next? Apple designed LTE modem? Any doubts there are Macs running on the A10 right now in the lab?
    SoliGeorgeBMacTomEcornchip
  • Reply 18 of 65
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,909member
    Apple should simply buy AMD as I told Tim and Phil to.
    AMD likely comes with a ton of baggage that Apple does not want. 

    If possible (and it probably is possible), it's better to make long term deals with AMD. 

    Heck, for all we know, such deals may have already been made. It's pretty amazing to me that AMD did not go out of business. Perhaps Apple made a strategic investment there that kept AMD afloat and will have long term benefits to Apple (that's total speculation, of coursE). 
  • Reply 19 of 65
    I don't have a problem with anything Imagination Technologies has reportedly said or done.  Of course they should explore options to protect themselves against possible IP theft.  If Google or Samsung had hired people away from a supplier and then announced they no longer needed that supplier, this forum would be full of people ranting and raving about unethical those companies are.  It is CONCEIVABLE that Apple stepped over some legal and ethical lines in its relationship with Imagination Technologies.  I hope they didn't and expect they didn't, but it's reasonable for Imagination Technologies to use all means at its disposal to protect themselves.
    hammerd2
  • Reply 20 of 65
    davendaven Posts: 514member
    bdkennedy said:
    GT Advanced Technologies
    The opposite of GT. GT scammed Apple with false claims that cost Apple a lot and GT's execs made out like bandits.
    anton zuykovdysamoria
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