Semiconductor Value Chain

Apple Extends Imagination Graphics License Deal

06 February 2014

Imagination Technologies Group plc (Kings Langley, England) has renewed an established multi-year multi-use license agreement with consumer electronics giant Apple, which continues to hold a single-digit percentage stake in the processor intellectual property licensor.

Imagination whose graphics cores are deployed within the Apple iPhone and iPad products suffered in its most recent financial results, due to a slow down in the high-end smartphone business in the second half of 2013. However, the news of the Apple deal caused its share price to spike by 20 percent on Thursday, Feb. 6.

The term of the extension was not disclosed, but it will provide Apple with access to current and future PowerVR graphics and video IP cores, Imagination said. As such the deal is thought to exclude other IP that Imagination now offers, such as its lines of MIPS and Meta processor cores and its Ensigma communications IP. But the deal is thought to include Imagination's ray traced rendering technology, which it acquired with a company called Caustic Graphics Inc. in December 2010.

Imagination has said it is working on a ray-tracing unit core for implementation in 16nm FinFET processes to be placed alongside conventional GPU cores and used within mobile system-chips. And this could be the sort of technology Apple is signing up to use.

Imagination chief operating officer John Metcalfe declined to make clear whether the deal also includes an architectural license that would allow Apple executives to create their own cores that implement Imagination graphics architectures.

Nonetheless, the deal is likely to provide Imagination with many millions of dollars of revenue over the next several years as its technology is designed into the system-chips that are in the Apple iPhone and iPad. It may also go someway toward dispelling the myth that Apple is eager to develop its own graphics technology.

Metcalfe agreed that Apple has the money and the resources to license technology and to develop its own, but said Imagination is confident that Apple has licensed its technology because it wants to use it for future products. This is supported by the fact that Apple remains a significant shareholder in Imagination. Apple took at 9.5 percent stake in Imagination in June 2009. That holding has not changed significantly since then, said Metcalfe said.

Imagination GPUs are also licensed by Intel for use within some Atom processors although Imagination has been developing its own GPU design capability. Similarly Imagination has licensed its technology to the leading supplier of application processors for moble phones, Qualcomm Inc. although Qualcomm continues to deploy its own Adreno graphics cores within its Snapdragon processors.

Under the terms of the Apple licensing arrangement, Imagination will receive on-going license fees, and royalty revenues on shipment of SoCs incorporating Imagination's IP.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Imagination Upgrades 'Rogue' GPU family

Imagination's Warrior Core Avoids Big-Little 'Complexity'

Apple Joins Expanding Market for Larger Smartphones

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