Tag: imagination technologies

Imagination Technologies announces PowerVR Series 6

British-based fabless IC designer, Imagination Technologies, has announced its plans to release a next generation of mobile GPUs that will knock the proverbial socks off the competition, they happen to have called it ‘Rogue’.

Appropriately disclosed at CES 2012, considering it’s been slanted towards slates this year, the PowerVR Series 6 ‘Rogue’ will come in two flavours, the G6200 and G6400, which contain 2- and 4- compute clusters respectively, and support all the major graphics APIs such as OpenGL ES, OpenGL (3.x/4.x), Direct X (10.1/11.1).

Imagination Technologies is promising a 20-fold performance gain over its predecessor and some serious power savings, but unfortunately that’s all it is claiming for now.

Of its partners, ST Microelectronics, a long-standing licensee of PowerVR’s tech since Series 3, has already announced it will be using Series 6 in their Nova SoCs. Rival chip designer, ARM, has recently had its Mali 400 shrunk to a new 28nm process technology through its partner Socle Technology, while Nvidia is working with TSMC on its own 28nm designs, it is highly likely that PowerVR Series 6 will follow suit with its foundry partners.

Things are looking even better of late for Imagination, as one of their main competitors, Qualcomm with its Adreno graphics, has surrendered and licensed PowerVR for its forthcoming SoCs. Of the major mobile GPU makers around today, ARM and Nvidia seem to be the only ones interested in keeping up the competition.

Imagination Technologies made a name for itself by providing graphics processing muscle for the likes of Nintendo, and managed to escape the reaper’s blade by reinventing its IP as a mobile graphics offering, scoring huge licensing deals with Sony (PSP, Vita), Intel (Atom, Medfield) and Apple (iPhone 4, 4S and iPad 2).

Devices based on the Series 6 aren’t expected until late 2012 if not beginning of 2013, so hold onto your breeches.

Imagination Technologies buys into Toumaz

Semiconductor intellectual property company Imagination Technologies is a financial backer to a new Toumaz subsidiary, Toumaz Microsystems, which will focus solely on low power, wireless ICs.

Toumaz has divided itself by two, and now has Toumaz UK – which will look after its health technology products, and Toumaz Microsystems for the wireless ICs. Both will be subsidiaries of Toumaz Ltd but all of Toumaz’s chip design team will head to Microsystems.

Toumaz Microsystems designs, develops and sells ICs for radios that find themselves in connected devices, in a range of market segments including home and enterprise automation, security and smart power. 

For its £5 million investment and chip IP, Imagination gets 25 percent of Toumaz Microsystems. Imagination will also provide supportive engineering resources to Toumaz Microsystems, reports Electronics Weekly

Imagination will have one of its own sit on the board, where he will be kept company by two from Toumaz. 

Apple-backed Imagination lends Samsung some IP

Part-Apple owned System on Chip IP company, Imagination Technologies, has signed a licence agreement with Cupertino arch-rival Samsung to use its intellectual property.

The details are thin, but Imagination says Samsung will be using its technology in up-coming SoCs for the mobile and consumer markets. Which is Apple-town. The intellectual property in question is for Imagination’s PowerVR SGX MP multiprocessor graphics family, it says.

Readers might recall Apple signing on with PowerVR back in 2008.

Apple and Samsung were once quite friendly – with Samsung manufacturing much of Apple’s kit – until a patent row kicked off in the courts because Jobs’ Mob believed the Korean company was pinching all of its best ideas. 

The Hertfordshire -based Imagination hasn’t disclosed terms of the agreement. 

MediaTek signs SoC licensing deal with Imagination Technologies

Taiwanese MediaTek has signed on the dotted line with plucky British system-on-chip IP firm Imagination Technologies.

Imagination will licence part of its POWERVR SGX Series5XT graphics processor family to Mediatek.

MediaTek in turn is expected to use the technology in upcoming system on chip devices, specifically for digital TV.

Through the deal, Imagination will get a bundle of cash in licence fees as well as royalty revenues from any shipments of MediaTek’s SoCs that use its technology.

Exact terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Qualcomm mulls Imagination buy

An industry insider has told TechEye that Qualcomm, though doing rather well, is struggling with certain graphics drivers in its next line of chip designs.

And that is the reason the rumour mill suggests it will buy at least some of British based Imagination Technologies, says a person familiar with the matter. Imagination is known for its work with graphics on system-on-chip designs.

Although we were not privy as to just what problem Qualcomm is having with its mobile graphics drivers, we’ve heard it’s serious enough for a shopping spree… 

MediaTek, Imagination Technologies create MT6573 mobile chip

MediaTek and Imagination Technologies have teamed up to create an application processor with PowerVR graphics acceleration.

The fabless semiconductor company for wireless communications and digital multimedia services and the multimedia and communications technologies company have named their new child the charming “MT6573”.

The baby incorporates a PowerVR Series5 SGX GPU from Imagination for advanced smartphone graphics, which is claimed to be a good bet for gaming and navigation, while MediaTek’s contribution is cost effective services. The idea is “advanced performance in lower-priced smartphones.”

It’s based on a 650MHz ARM11 processor core. Its graphics capbilities include 3D, multi-format video capture and playback up to FWVGA 30fps, high-resolution camera support to 8MP and a FWVGA, touch-screen display.

It also supports a quad-band, 3G/HSPA modem with mobile broadband rates of 7.2Mbps in the downlink and 5.76 Mbps uplink, as well as quad-band EDGE.

It seems as though MediaTek needs all the help it can get at the moment. Yesterday it released figures of its February revenue, which did not please the bank.

The company reported a four-year low of $151 million (NT$4.53 billion), which it put down to a lackluster market for mobile phones in mainland China. It also blamed the long Chinese New Year holidays.

That said, it’s pretty confident about the future. It’s still predicting that its first year revenue will hit $650-703 million (NT$19.5-21.1 billion), which means it needs to make at least $246 million (NT$7.4 billion) this March. 

E-readers: the medium is not the message

The technology developed by Plastic Logic for e-readers and other applications is really rather good – flexible displays with very low power sounds and looks like it’s a real breakthrough but faces an uphill struggle because its investors  will demand a return on their money before economies of scale kick in.

With a string of investors including Amadeus Capital Partners, Oak  Investment Partners, Bank of America, Polytechnos, Intel, Dow,  Morningside, O-BASF, Nanotech Partners, Siemens and Yasuda,  it has  also obtained private financial funding for a production facility of over $100 million –  it has total funding of $200 million.

As I listened to the presentation from Plastic Logic at the International Electronics Forum last week,  a UK CEO was  playing with his latest toy – an Apple iPad. That comes with full  colour and sells for around one third of the price of Plastic’s QUE  Proreader – a black and white model will cost around $750 when it’s  released in June – a colour version may be available at the end of  next year. CEOs might well be able to afford iPads and QUE Proreaders – they’re not for the plebs, that’s for sure.

When question time came, I asked the rep from Plastic Logic how a price tag of $750 could be justified when essentially people wanted an  affordable medium to read books, magazines and other content. The  answer wasn’t very re-assuring – the QUE Proreader is being aimed at  business people and content agreements have been signed with a number  of providers including the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post,  The Sporting News,  and some high end business and scientific magazines.

Hossein Yassaie, the CEO of Imagination Technologies, came to Plastic  Logic’s aid. He asked whether if the fabrication facilities were big  enough, could the price of the flexible display be brought down  sufficiently to make the technology really affordable. The answer to  that question, said Plastic Logic, was yes. Later, on a moving walkway  at London Heathrow, Yassaie said that he believed that one day such  displays would cost pennies.

The real question, of course,  is when that day will dawn. Companies  like Apple and Amazon with products like the iPad and the Kindle are  at the leading edge of e-reader technology – they’re relying on people  thinking that the coolness of having a fancy gizmo will give somewhat  immediate returns on investment. But what I want is a sheet of  flexible electronic paper with good connectivity and which costs  closer to $50 or $100 than $500 or $750.  As Plastic Logic pointed  out, economies of scale – that is to say a bigger fab churning out  more of this flexible display – would allow it to do this in the future. 

When Intel first started out touting netbooks or UMPCs, they  were $1,000 plus when they should have been $200.

Plastic Logic, we hope, is in this game for the long haul. Its  founders include Stuart M. Evans, Professor Sir Richard Friend – the  Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge, and Professor Henning  Sirringhaus, the Hitachi Professor of Electron Device Physics at Cambridge University.

Perhaps it is time for the co-founders of the company to put some  pressure on their high profile industrial backers to really get  production moving. At only several dollars for the Bill of Materials  (BOM), such products would really put the horse before the cart. This isn’t the time for caution, it’s the perfect time to grab the concept and run with it.

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Imagination Technologies pimps out its SDK

Imagination Technologies (IMG) is a firm with a confident swagger about it these days. The company just released its new SDK and is “pimping it out” at every opportunity.

David Harold, director of PR for IMG, recently told TechEye that although he felt the SDK was worth hundreds of dollars, the firm was passing it out for free and giving out hundreds of the kits to developers on CD-ROMs, as well as having a downloadable version up online.

“We could make a lot of money out of it if we wanted to monetise it, but we don’t,” he told us. Of course, IMG is not playing developer soup kitchen out of the goodness of its heart, more developers developing means more apps to take advantage of IMG’s tech in a world where content is king.

“The richer the content on mobile devices, the faster IMG will grow, so we see it as essential to encourage developers,” Harold told us.

“This community is important to us, especially in a world where mobile is exceeding consoles.”

And mobile really is becoming a focus for IMG, which believes more portable devices will really cut into the desktop business.

“Power consumption will have to continue to go lower and lower, and people just don’t want fans anymore,” he said noting this was some of the reason why set top boxes had seen a sudden explosion in popularity.

Of course, IMG is also collaborating very intensely with Intel on set top boxes, and says the chip giant’s business is “incredibly important to us.”

Intel is a very major shareholder in IMG, and the two firms are working together on Intel’s Sodaville (C4100) plans for set top boxes and digitally wonderous TVs.

“Power consumption and performance per watt is very, very important to us,” Harold added.

More, er, less power to ‘em then!

PR firm pimps out privacy

We have a privacy problem in the 21st century. Namely, we have none, and what little we do have, is too often negligently trampled on by others, leaked, divulged, passed around, handed over. You could say that privacy was the 21st century’s whore.

And pimping out people’s privacy is apparently good business practice these days too. Just ask Yahoo, or Google, or Microsoft. Or, ask the California based PR firm which represents – amongst others – Imagination Technologies.

We were recently approached by a rep from the firm asking us if we were interested in meeting up with Imagination Technologies at the upcoming GDC conference in California. We told him that, yes, we were indeed interested.

This reporter was then asked for a headshot and bio, for use in a “media briefing/appointment book”. The rep enclosed a copy of such an appointment book from CES. Replete with analyst and journalist names, phone numbers, emails and even meeting times and previous briefings attended.

This reporter now has the personal cell phone numbers of many an analyst who probably wishes she didn’t.

The 44 pages of the document (yes, 44 pages) also shows how much meeting time was allocated to each hack and analyst, revealing that Imagination Technologies certainly appears to have more love for some than for others.

One reporter whose details were unceremoniously leaked told us that the debacle certainly “appears to be not the best practice in the world,” which we found rather diplomatic and restrained of him.

Whilst we can easily understand why a firm might need a briefing document like this for internal PR use, we’re pretty sure most people on that list wouldn’t want their personal details being sent around willy nilly without their consent or foreknowledge.

We’ve written to the rep and told him as much, so we won’t name and shame. But please, PR people, have some respect for our privacy. It’s not yours to give away. 

Glofo to pick up Samsung's Apple tab?

There’s been much speculation about the core of Apple’s new wunder gadget, the iPad, especially when it comes down to the pips or, rather, the chips.

What we do know is that Apple wasn’t giving Intel any love, having the utter impudence to snub the chip behemoth in favour of a rather lower powered, zippier system on a chip (SoC) dubbed the “A4” processor.

The A4, designed by Apple’s very own insiders – including  a couple of high profile former AMD/ATI GPGPU gurus and ex PA Semiconductor boffins – is apparently based on a 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor with an Imagination Technologies SGX 535 graphics core.

It’s also been heavily implied that the chip was fabbed by Samsung, something which has been backed up by an undercover TechEye source.

Of course, Samsung has been a key Apple manufacturing partner for some time already, with both the inner guts of the Ipod and Iphone being churned out by the Korean firm.

Samsung also happens to be a partner in the IBM alliance for process technology, which means the firm has access to leading edge-technology, even though it’s not strictly speaking a “foundry” company. Indeed, Samsung’s business model here seems to be more along the lines of selling off as much of its excess capacity as possible.

While this may well come cheap(er) for Apple than a proper fab, sources tell us other fabs may have plans to try to poach the fruity firm next time around. Firms like GlobalFoundries, for instance, which now has a pure-play leading-edge foundry using similar process tech recipes to Samsung’s own.

Rumour has it that Apple is using Samsung’s 45nm bulk process for its chips, though, so if Glofo wants a taste of the Apple pie, it may have to start thinking of moving over from its current batch of 45nm SOI. 

Watch this space.