Imagination Acquires MIPS Operating Business, ARM Acquires MIPS Patents

Posted on November 6, 2012 5:52 PM by Rob Williams

At the moment, ARM-based processors are dominating the smartphone / tablet market, and it looks like that could be the case for a while. Of course, Intel is beginning to get in on things as well with its Atom-based solutions, and certain Windows 8 tablets will feature more robust Core i CPUs, but for the most part, it seems every smartphone vendor is stuck with ARM for the moment. Wouldn’t more competition be nice? Well, hold onto that thought, because it could be coming rather soon.

Imagination Technologies, creator of the enormously popular PowerVR graphics processor also seen in many of today’s smartphones, has acquired MIPS Technologies for $60 million. MIPS is the creator of another RISC-based processor that at some level, competes with ARM. While MIPS’ focus isn’t really on smartphones and other mobile devices at the moment, it could be soon. Imagination on the GPU, and MIPS on the CPU? Seems like a potential match made in heaven. The joint company would be able to develop its own CPU+GPU solutions much like AMD and Intel can. At the moment, even Apple, which has its hands deep in its SoC’s architecture, still licenses from ARM and Imagination, so it’s easy to see how an Imagination+MIPS venture could really catch the mobile market by storm.

In an interesting move, though, ARM is part of its own MIPS deal. While Imagination acquires MIPS as a company, and acquires many of its patents, many more patents are instead being acquired by ARM, at a far greater fee of $167.5 million. While it could hurt Imagination just a wee bit to miss out on some of those patents, it inherits every MIPS engineer, so it could effectively treat things as a fresh start.

While the fruits of this Imagination+MIPS partnership wouldn’t be seen for a couple of years, it’s something to look forward to. With Intel, and even AMD in some respects, vying for more mobile marketshare themselves though, the market may be quite a bit different when Imagination would be able to ship its first CPU+GPU solution.

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