Imagination Technologies, a UK-based fabless chip designer, announced today that it has signed a new license agreement with Apple which will permit the Cupertino technology giant to use Imagination's intellectual property in its own designs in exchange for license fees.
When Apple informed GPU component supplier Imagination Technology back in April that they would no longer be requiring their services, their shares dropped by nearly 50% by the following day. It has been a bit of a bitter separation, with Imagination saying that Apple would be unable to create their own GPU without violating their patents.
Apple has reportedly opened a 22,500 square feet office in St Albans in the United Kingdom, right in the neighborhood of its former mobile GPU provider Imagination Technologies which has its headquarters in the adjacent Hertfordshire village of Kings Langley.
It reportedly plans to use the new office to develop its own graphics technology.
According to The Telegraph newspaper this weekend, this could be interpreted as a rather aggressive move aimed at poaching Imagination's most talented engineers. Indeed, Apple has more than a dozen listings for experts in graphics hardware in South Hertfordshire.
Apple's already poached several Imagination engineers, including its COO John Metcalfe.
As The Guardian's James Titcomb wrote:
The development is set to heighten tensions between the companies, exacerbating fears that Apple is seeking a quasi-takeover of its supplier by hiring its employees and weakening the company’s hand as the two tussle over Apple’s plans to ditch the company.
Apple and Imagination have been at odds since April, when the former told the British fabless chip designer it'd stop using its GPU blueprints for its in-house designed mobile processors.
Imagination put itself up for sale last month.
Apple informed Imagination that it has a been working on its own GPU design and told them it would be reducing its future reliance on Imagination’s technology.
Just last week, Apple clarified it actually stopped accepting new intellectual property from Imagination back in 2015, rather than in 2016 as Imagination said to its shareholders.
“We valued our past relationship and wanted to give them as much notice as possible to adapt their future plans,” said an Apple spokesman. “We’re disappointed in their response, which has been inaccurate and misleading”.
New GPU designs from Apple could debut in next year's iOS devices.
Apple has hit hard at the accusations that its former mobile GPU supplier Imagination Technologies leveled at the Cupertino tech giant. According to the iPhone maker, Imagination's “unsubstantiated allegations” made recently in their annual report to investors are “inaccurate and misleading,” Bloomberg reported Friday.
Apple is adamant that Imagination had known for much longer that their business relationship was ending, explaining it started working with the British firm since the first iPhone was released in 2007 and stopped accepting new intellectual property from them in 2015.
An excerpt from the article:
By 2016, Apple said it told Imagination it was further diminishing the relationship by initiating a clause in its contact that allows Apple to pay a lower royalty rate for using a smaller amount of intellectual property.
By February of this year, Apple said it told Imagination it was ending the relationship altogether and would no longer be making any royalty payments as early as 2018.
Basically, Imagination'd known for two years of Apple's plans to drop its GPU blueprints.
The statement contradicts Imagination CEO Andrew Heath who told investors on a conference call this week that Apple had informed Imagination at the end of March “that they were certain” that iOS devices released in 2018 or early 2019 would no longer use Imagination's GPU designs.
He added that “we don’t accept Apple’s position” that it could build its own system and called Apple’s decision to stop making royalty payments to Imagination “unsubstantiated.”
Apple said in a statement to Bloomberg:
We began working with Imagination in 2007 and stopped accepting new IP from them in 2015. After lengthy discussions we advised them on February 9 that we expected to wind down our licensing agreement since we need unique and differentiating IP for our products. We valued our past relationship and wanted to give them as much notice as possible to adapt their future plans.
At the heart of the dispute: Apple's April 2017 decision to drop Imagination's proprietary GPU blueprints in favor of in-house designed GPUs for iPhones and iPads. The announcement shocked Imagination's investors and caused its stock to collapse more than sixty percent.
Imagination eventually put itself up for sale.
Apple, which owns a stake in Imagination, is unlikely to make an offer, according to Bloomberg.
Imagination has been arguing ever since that it would be impossible for the Cupertino firm to design its own mobile GPUs without infringing Imagination's proprietary technology.
The Cupertino firm is said to have already cut payments for licensed Imagination GPU designs from 30 cents to just 10 cents per iPhone. Analyst think Imagination will struggle to stay in business as an independent company without Apple as its key customer.
Fabless semiconductor maker Imagination Technologies has announced it's putting itself up for sale, either in chunks or as a larger whole, just two months after Apple said it didn't want to license its mobile GPU blueprints for iOS devices anymore.
The iPhone maker accounts for about half of Imagination's sales.
The UK-based company's share price immediately fell off a cliff as a result. Imagination lost 70 percent of its value following a dispute with Apple.
Reuters reported Thursday that Imagination's board of directors has “received interest from a number of parties”.
The company said in a statement:
Imagination Technologies announces that over the last few weeks it has received interest from a number of parties for a potential acquisition of the whole group.
The board of Imagination has therefore decided to initiate a formal sale process for the group and is engaged in preliminary discussions with potential bidders.
Analysts think potential bidders could include Intel, Qualcomm, Mediatek, CEVA and various Chinese firms. It's unclear it Apple itself could be interested.
Founded in 1985 and listed in 1994, Imagination had a market capitalization of 425 million pounds, or approximately $538 million, following today's news. By comparison, the company was valued at more than 2 billion pounds in April 2012, or more than $2.5 billion.
Two months ago, Imagination started seeking buyers for its Ensigma business and the MIPS division, which it bought for $100 million in 2013. The British GPU designer said it was offloading those businesses in order to focus on its new PowerVR Furian graphics architecture.
According to UBS, Imagination's non-Apple business was worth 81 million pounds in April 2017, or about $100 million. Apple, which owns an eight percent stake in Imagination, said in April it's been working on “a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products.”
The Cupertino firm should stop using Imagination's GPU designs within 15 to 24 months.
Apple was rumored to acquire Imagination last year, but the talks fell apart. Apple has since poached Imagination's COO John Metcalfe along with a bunch of Imagination engineers.
Without any Apple royalty contributions, Imagination could become a loss-making company.
As Apple is winding down its supply deal with UK-based GPU designer Imagination Technologies over the next two years, a new report alleges that the Cupertino firm is about to slash payments to Imagination to just one-third of its current royalty rate.
Reuters cited UBS analysts as predicting that Imagination could very easily become a loss-making company by fiscal 2019 without any Apple royalty contributions. The British GPU designer may even have to axe jobs and consider other potential cost-cutting moves in order to weather the storm ahead.
In a bombshell press release issued Monday, UK chip designer Imagination Technologies said Apple told it that it would end a fruitful deal to use Imagination's blueprints for customized graphics cores in its own A-series chips powering iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch and Apple TV devices.
Apparently, the Cupertino company is now looking to create independent GPU designs that could be ready in about two year's time. Shares of Imagination immediately plunged over 70 percent to their lowest level since the financial crisis in 2009, wiping over $625 million off the company's market value.
Combing through multiple LinkedIn profiles, MacRumors has discovered that Imagination Technologies COO John Metcalfe left the company in June along with a bunch of engineers and is now listed as a Senior Director at Apple, where he started in July. Imagination GPUs are found in Apple's in-house designed mobile chips for iOS devices.
Imagination Technologies, a fabless UK-based semiconductor maker, has been supplying PowerVR-branded mobile graphics IP for Apple's in-house designed iDevice chips since the iPhone's inception.
Detailed 3D graphics, speedy animations and smooth performance have always been one of the hallmarks of the iPhone and iPad so it's no surprise that Apple is an investor in Imagination.
Following Imagination's announcement of a next-generation PowerVR GX6650 GPU that promises to smoke graphics giant Nvidia's own Tegra K1 mobile processor, Imagination yesterday said it is taking PowerVR graphics architecture to the next level by adding ray-tracing capabilities.
Apple likely won't utilize this technique in its upcoming A8 chip for the iPhone 6 and 2014 iPads because Imagination's technology won't be making its way into products until 2015.
This means that come 2015, your iPhone and iPad could easily give dedicated game consoles a good run for their money graphics-wise, by supporting high-quality lighting and shadows, accurate transparency and photorealistic reflections...
Apple's been using GPU parts from Imagination Technologies since switching to its own in-house designed iOS device processors, starting with the iPhone 3Gs in 2009. This UK-based firm does not churn out actual chips. Instead, it licenses out its GPU designs and intellectual property to vendors like Apple, Intel, Qualcomm and many others - that's why "they" call it a fabless semiconductor maker.
Now, Apple's engine that powers iOS devices typically combines Imagination's GPU and ARM's CPU blueprints with some memory, I/O logic and other supporting functions on a single die, a solution known in the semiconductor industry as a system-on-a-chip (SoC).
Moreover, both Apple and Intel own a stake in Imagination, another indication of its importance to Apple's mobile future. See, Imagination's PowerVR graphics processors coupled with Apple's efficient mobile operating system have been largely responsible for the smooth graphics, transitions and animations seen throughout iOS. It's the reason iOS is the smoothest mobile OS out there.
At CES earlier this year, Imagination unveiled a new GPU that we suspect should make its way into upcoming iOS devices. Today, the company is detailing some of its more intricate aspects and boy does it make our hearts sing: it supports 4K resolutions and outperforms even Nvidia's upcoming Tegra K1, apparently enabling the most powerful graphics yet in mobile phones and tablets...
The fabless semiconductor maker, Imagination Technologies, has been providing Apple's iPad and iPhone with its graphics and video hardware since 2007. On Thursday, the UK-based company announced extending its licensing agreement with Apple, giving the iPhone maker multi-year access to Imagination's current and future PowerVR-branded graphics and video GPU blueprints.
The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Both Apple and Intel are investors in Imagination, with the former holding a ten percent ownership stake in the company...
Following their initial analysis of the iPhone 5s's innards, silicon experts at Chipworks have now taken a closer look at the handset's 64-bit A7 processor to reveal a number of interesting tidbits in their initial low-level chip analysis. Based on transistor-level images of the Apple-designed, Samsung-built package, Chipworks was able to determine that the A7 consists of a dual-core processing core and quad-core graphics, tentatively identified as the four cluster version of Imagination Technologies’s PowerVR Series 6, the G6430.
Apple, along with Intel, is of course an investor with a ten percent stake in Imagination Technologies, the UK-based fabless semiconductor maker. Chipworks also focused on a portion of the A7 chip called Secure Enclave where Apple says fingerprint profile is stored securely and walled off from the entire system, except the Touch ID circuitry...