Imagination buys CPU design company MIPS for $60 million, finally some competition for ARM

November 6, 2012

    Android’s somewhat unexpected and very impressive expansion and growth over the last couple of years has not only driven innovation forward, but also competition in pretty much every aspect of the word and market niche.

    We have very exciting battles in the smartphone and tablet manufacturing areas, we have increased carrier competitions, as well as clashes in the display making department. But what about the manufacturing of mobile chips?

    Sure, there is an enticing “crusade” going on there too between Qualcomm, NVIDIA and Samsung, to only name a few of the major players, but the Snapdragon, Tegra and Exynos CPUs are all built on ARM’s architecture and licensed from the British multinational semiconductor design company.

    Even Apple’s chips are ARM-based, so, while we can’t say the British have monopolized the mobile processing market yet, they’re very close to doing just that. Intel is one of the most important names that might oppose the monopoly, but the surprise could come from a much smaller company called Imagination Technologies.

    Also based in the UK, Imagination might ring a bell for its manufacturing of the PowerVR graphics processing units (GPUs), though it shouldn’t take long until it’ll make a push in the CPU arena too.

    In order to that, Imagination has made a $60 million bid (in cash) for MIPS Technologies, formerly known as MIPS Computer Systems, a semiconductor design company headquartered in California. The transaction should close in the first quarter of 2013 and will bring the buyer a highly experienced team of 160 MIPS engineers and a portfolio of 82 exclusive patents.

    Imagination will also get royalty-free, perpetual licenses for an additional 498 patents which have been sold by MIPS to AST for gross proceeds of $350 million.

    Although MIPS was yet to make a serious push in the Android world, focusing on designing chips for routers, blu-ray players, digital TVs or video game consoles in the past, the new firm will most definitely make efforts on challenging ARM.

    And while that sounds like a very rough, time-consuming and money-spending affair, the first steps shouldn’t be too hard to make, as MIPS’s CPU architecture is one of the few directly supported by Android.

    Mobile is however not the only reason why Imagination decided to make the bid, the strengthening of the company’s “position and opportunities in TV/set-top, box, consumer, and other embedded markets, as well as the increase in networking and infrastructure” being also key future focus points for the newly born conglomerate.

    Who here thinks that Imagination stands a chance in a head-to-head battle against ARM? Is this venture at least worth a shot? And will we have something to gain from the supposed increased competition?

    Comments

    • http://www.facebook.com/amadeus.klein Amadeus Klein

      Until a newer, more powerful and far more efficient chip architecture comes along I don’t think there will be much competition for ARM… They have been the standard since Smartphones came into popularity. It will take a major innovation to unseat ARM at this point.

      • MasterMuffin

        And almost same price/cheaper

    • saurabhaj

      Who was successful to beat Intel,no one…
      Who will be successful to beat Arm,no one,
      why? there must be some reason to leave Arm,
      is there any? NO.

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