Apple, former partner Imagination Technologies ink new licensing agreement

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2020
UK-based chipmaker Imagination Technologies on Thursday announced Apple has replaced a licensing agreement first signed in 2014, though details of the deal, including what technology it covers, remain unknown.




Announced in a brief press release posted to Imagination's website, the new agreement sees Apple pay out licensing fees for multi-year rights to a "wider range" of the British firm's intellectual property. What IP is involved in the agreement was not divulged in today's statement:
Imagination Technologies ("Imagination") announces that it has replaced the multi-year, multi-use license agreement with Apple, first announced on February 6, 2014, with a new multi-year license agreement under which Apple has access to a wider range of Imagination's intellectual property in exchange for license fees.
A former Apple collaborator in the GPU design space, Imagination saw its fortunes tumble in 2017 when the tech giant decided to shift GPU operations in-house.

In April 2017, Imagination announced Apple planned to stop using the firm's IP in its hardware designs by 2019. The firm was heavily reliant on licensing revenue from the iPhone maker, which came out to some $81 million in fiscal 2017. Apple's abrupt pullout left Imagination flailing to stay alive as its stock plummeted.

Shortly after the announced breakup, Imagination entered a "dispute resolution process", accusing Apple of "unauthorized use of Imagination's confidential information and Imagination's intellectual property rights." In its defense, Apple said it stopped accepting new IP from Imagination in 2015, adding that the firm only decided to apprise its shareholders of the situation after Apple invoked a contract clause to pay lower royalty rates.

The chipmaker sought to sell itself in June 2017 and ultimately found a buyer in China-backed equity firm Canyon Bridge.

For years, Apple relied on Imagination's PowerVR technology in its A-series system-on-chip designs, silicon that can still be found in certain iPads, Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple TV 4K. In 2017, however, Apple introduced its own integrated GPU design with the A11 Bionic chip powering iPhone 8 and iPhone X. Subsequent A-series designs rely solely on Apple tech.
watto_cobra
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 22
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 802member
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    bala1234jbdragonwatto_cobradysamoriajony0
  • Reply 3 of 22
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,756member
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    Or they can’t scale the architecture much beyond the A12X for other devices and need a hand.
    edited January 2020 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 4 of 22
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    That would be my guess. 
    jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 22
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    Possible, but you have to wonder why they would need to license a "wider range" of tech?    Beyond all of that I have this suspicion that they did a deal of some sort with AMD.  
  • Reply 6 of 22
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    mcdave said:
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    Or they can’t scale the architecture much beyond the A12X for other devices and need a hand.
    I really doubt that.    Mainly because Apple picked up so many AMD engineers back when AMD was on the ropes.   Beyond all of that, Apple most likely has the best SoC design team on the planet right now.    They have picked up close to a dozen highly respected design firms over the last few years.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,267member
    So, Apple decided to go it alone on (5G) modems and failed.   And too, they tried to go it alone on GPUs and also (apparently) failed.

    Thankfully though, like all wise men, they recognized that they needed help and went out and got it.   That's what made Apple and other similar organizations successful:  reality based pragmatism that superseded pride.

    But, that leaves the question of where Apple is going with this:
    Essentially, their bread and butter iPhone is pretty much tapped out:  All the functions that could realistically be added have been added and now they're down to refining them.  Meanwhile they are busy rolling out the A14 processor while still marketing the nearly 4 year old A10 which continues to work just fine.   So, the iPhone is not being constrained by processing power.

    But, there are still a couple possibilities:
    1)   A focused entry into gaming across product lines (from a TV based console through the iPads and iPhones).   That will require vastly GPU performance and could be why Apple has asked for help.

    2)  The long rumored switch of (at least some of) MacBooks from Intel processors to A series processors.   And again, that would require improved graphics capabilities and again could be why Apple asked for help.

    I am looking for more steady progress from Apple throughout the new decade we just entered.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 620member
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    It is likely that the dispute resolution identified patents that Apple needed even for their own designs. Some broad (sometimes overly broad unfortunately) patents are very difficult to avoid. Apple is all-in on Metal so I’d guess the IP is related to their API more than the physical GPU. 

    Another thing, Imagination sold itself and maybe the new company was asking for much more reasonable terms. That would make negotiations easier for Apple with an improved cost/benefit ratio compared to litigation. 
    edited January 2020 GeorgeBMacwilliamhwatto_cobradysamoria
  • Reply 9 of 22
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 802member
    wizard69 said:
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    Possible, but you have to wonder why they would need to license a "wider range" of tech?    Beyond all of that I have this suspicion that they did a deal of some sort with AMD.  
    Here's the thing.  On this board, we get a lot of people moaning about "non-practicing entity" "patent trolls" suing and trying to squeeze money out of Apple.  What we have here is a practicing entity and with tech that's good enough that Apple licensed it for years. . Apple said that they stopped receiving new tech from Imagination some time ago.  However, Apple could have have been unintentionally infringing on patented technology whether or not they received it from Imagination. I think they determined that happened and just sorted it out.
    jdb8167watto_cobramuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 10 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,267member
    jdb8167 said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    It is likely that the dispute resolution identified patents that Apple needed even for their own designs. Some broad (sometimes overly broad unfortunately) patents are very difficult to avoid. Apple is all-in on Metal so I’d guess the IP is related to their API more than the physical GPU. 

    Another thing, Imagination sold itself and maybe the new company was asking for much more reasonable terms. That would make negotiations easier for Apple with an improved cost/benefit ratio compared to litigation. 

    Yeh, actually, I wish Apple had done the same with Huawei (licensed their technology)  rather than stooping down to crappy, crooked Qualcomm to get a 5G modem.
  • Reply 11 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,573member
    So, Apple decided to go it alone on (5G) modems and failed.   And too, they tried to go it alone on GPUs and also (apparently) failed.
    How did you come up with that? As for 5G, Apple only recently got into doing it internally when they acquired Intel’s modem business last summer. We haven’t and won’t see what comes of that yet for some time. And their GPU improvements in the Ax series chips have been very impressive. 

    So what are these failures you’ve come up with?
    ericthehalfbeewatto_cobratmay
  • Reply 12 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,573member

    jdb8167 said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    It is likely that the dispute resolution identified patents that Apple needed even for their own designs. Some broad (sometimes overly broad unfortunately) patents are very difficult to avoid. Apple is all-in on Metal so I’d guess the IP is related to their API more than the physical GPU. 

    Another thing, Imagination sold itself and maybe the new company was asking for much more reasonable terms. That would make negotiations easier for Apple with an improved cost/benefit ratio compared to litigation. 
    Yeh, actually, I wish Apple had done the same with Huawei (licensed their technology)  rather than stooping down to crappy, crooked Qualcomm to get a 5G modem.
    If you think Apple would license core communications tech from a CCP-run knockoff shop, you don’t know Apple very well. 
    williamhwatto_cobratmay
  • Reply 13 of 22
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    Desktop GPU intellectual property.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    19831983 Posts: 1,224member
    What, Apple’s in-house GPU not good enough? LOL
    edited January 2020
  • Reply 15 of 22
    davidwdavidw Posts: 1,329member
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    I believe they acknowledged that back in 2015 when they invoked a clause to lower the royalty rate they were paying for Imagination tech. Apple did not want to just stop all royalty payment for their tech in 2015, they wanted a lower rate as they were no longer going to be using a good portion of Imagination tech in their own in-house chips,  but might still be using some of Imagination tech.

    I would assume that this is nothing but the new reduced royalty licensing agreement that Apple wanted to negotiate back in 2015. 



    edited to correct it's "Imagination", not of "AMD".
    edited January 2020 watto_cobratmay
  • Reply 16 of 22
    Hardware Ray Tracing
  • Reply 17 of 22
    wizard69 said:
    mcdave said:
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    Or they can’t scale the architecture much beyond the A12X for other devices and need a hand.
    I really doubt that.    Mainly because Apple picked up so many AMD engineers back when AMD was on the ropes.   Beyond all of that, Apple most likely has the best SoC design team on the planet right now.    They have picked up close to a dozen highly respected design firms over the last few years.
    Yeah ... that's not even close to being true. You can't "pick up" engineers and firms here and there and be better than companies that have been making SOCs and CPUs for decades and are under massive competitive pressure to either be better (Intel, Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia) or as good but cheaper (AMD, MediaTek) or be out on the street. Just like it is nuts to think that Apple will ever be as good at software and services as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other companies that have always done it and need to compete with other software/services companies that have outstanding engineers and product teams to survive. You saw what happened when Intel tried to compete with Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung in mobile. They were practically PAYING smartphone and tablet manufacturers to use their chips and it still didn't work and now Microsoft - in addition to not lifting a finger to help Intel in mobile - has sold them out by working with Qualcomm to get a practical x86-64 emulator on ARM. Speaking of which ... if Apple had such a good SOC design team they also would have dumped Intel in favor of getting macOS and iPadOS on the same hardware platform years ago. 
    edited January 2020
  • Reply 18 of 22
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,429member
    wizard69 said:
    williamh said:
    huh. I wonder for what tech?
    My guess is Apple has acknowledged that their current products contain technology owned by Imagination.  Rather than litigate the thing, they negotiated in good faith to pay royalties on it.  
    Possible, but you have to wonder why they would need to license a "wider range" of tech?    Beyond all of that I have this suspicion that they did a deal of some sort with AMD.  
    It’s a PR document intended as an indicator of positive business relations between two companies, one of which is a popular giant and being connected with them tends to boost stock prices. I doubt that the document is even remotely representative of the actual situation. They’ll say whatever they can say that sounds positive, without really saying anything, and without falling afoul of whatever regulations keep them from outright lying or attempting to manipulate stock prices.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    "if Apple had such a good SOC design team they also would have dumped Intel in favor of getting macOS and iPadOS on the same hardware platform years ago."

    Actually, Intel was given the opportunity to produce chips for the original iPhone years ago, but passed on the opportunity.  By the time Intel stopped reporting separate results for mobile chips, 
    they had lost $5 billion.  Now Intel struggles to keep up with the world's largest chip manufacturer (by market capitalization), TSMC (ticker TSM).  Intel is years behind TSMC, due to failure to invest in new equipment for chip manufacturing.  AMD, Apple and many others only do chip design, and give manufacturing contracts to the best chip fabrication companies.  Right now, most 7nm chips are made by TSMC.  By the time Intel gets to 7nm, TSMC will be producing 3nm chips, with much better speed, lower battery consumption and less heat output than Intel.  

    One of the reasons Windows Phone failed was that MSFT tried to shoe-horn bloated Windows into a mobile phone.  Another was that MSFT did not act fast enough to prevent Apple and Google (Android) from gaining a dominant market share.  No one wanted to develop for Windows Phone, or developed for it only after Android and iOS.  By the time Windows Phone development was killed, it had less than one-half of one percent of world phone sales marketshare.  Most of the current GUI Apple OS variants are derived from BSD Unix (by way of NextOS, then OS X/MacOS), but have user interfaces tailored to the device.  Android is largely based on Linux.  Both BSD Unix and Linux are multi-platform, while full implementations of Windows run mostly on x86.  The ARM Windows emulator seems similar to WINE for Unix/Linux.  (WINE = Wine Is Not an Emulator, meaning it is a compatibility layer, used by developers to port software from Windows to Unix-like systems).  

    Most of the chip design and fabrication companies poach employees from each other.  Apple picked-up a large number of Intel employees with the acquisition of the majority of Intel's cellular operations.  All of the most recent iPhone models have Intel cellular chips.  Apple has acquired chip related employees from AMD and IBM.  Apple may also have some folks from GlobalFoundries (which acquired chip manufacturing facilities from AMD, Samsung and IBM about a decade ago).  GlobalFoundries and TSMC do a lot of chip manufacturing for a lot of firms (AMD, Huawei, IBM and many of the major phone manufacturers in the US and China) that design their own chips, then contract out for manufacturing.  Few (if any) of the major cell phone brands do their own SoC/CPU/GPU chip manufacturing.  Samsung was planning to spend billions to re-enter cutting edge chip manufacturing, but has backed away from that major expense.  
    edited January 2020 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 20 of 22
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 10,267member
    So, Apple decided to go it alone on (5G) modems and failed.   And too, they tried to go it alone on GPUs and also (apparently) failed.
    How did you come up with that? As for 5G, Apple only recently got into doing it internally when they acquired Intel’s modem business last summer. We haven’t and won’t see what comes of that yet for some time. And their GPU improvements in the Ax series chips have been very impressive. 

    So what are these failures you’ve come up with?

    LOL... How did I come up with that?   It's called reality.  You should try it some day -- you might like it!  As I said:   Apple had been trying to escape Qualcomm's clutches for years.  Yes, they first tried going through Intel -- and failed.  Then, when their Intel partnership failed they tried doing it completely internally -- and failed again.

    Pay attention!  The world isn't simply the way you want it to be.




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