Update (20:53) After today’s rumors that Apple was in “advanced” talks to acquire Imagination Technologies, Apple has come out and told the world there is not much to report here. A new report from The WSJ claims Apple was, indeed, talking to Imagination Technologies about a possible acquisition, but they won’t be making any bids right now.
Original post (09:53): According to industry sources with insider knowledge, smartphone developer Apple is in “advanced” talks to acquire Imagination Technologies, the British chip design company perhaps best known for its PowerVR series of graphics processors.
Hardware followers will know that Apple is no stranger to Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR GPU line-up, having picked the technology for use on its own in-house SoC designs since the A4. The theory goes that acquiring Imagination Tech would bring Apple one step closer to designing its mobile SoCs completely in-house.
That said, the company is still licensing the ARM architecture for its CPU cores and has to work alongside semiconductor manufacturers, such as Samsung, to actually turn its designs into real chips. But such a move would position Apple closer to Qualcomm in terms of development scope, albeit without selling its chips to other device manufacturers. Qualcomm designs entire mobile SoC platforms itself, including its Kryo CPUs, Adreno GPUs, and X-series modem technologies, which is something a premium hardware brand such as Apple would certainly like to boast too.
Earlier in the year, Imagination Technologies announced that CEO Hossein Yassaie would be stepping down and that it would begin the process of restructuring the business. The company followed up in March with an announcement of 350 job losses and a renewed focus on its PowerVR graphics technology, the most popular aspect of its business. Perhaps a sale to one of its biggest customers makes sense for Imagination.
It remains to be seen what a takeover of Imagination Technologies would mean for other SoC developers who use its graphics technologies. The list includes major players MediaTek and Intel, although many mobile SoC chips for the Android market have been using ARM’s Mali GPU packages lately.
Apple has become increasingly independent with its SoC development, snapping up PA Semi to design its own CPU cores back in 2008. For a company that heavily markets the graphical processing power of its mobile devices, a move to start designing its own GPUs is a logical next step. Watch this space.