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UK Imagination Tech. buys US MIPS Tech. for £38 million

by Alistair Lowe on 7 November 2012, 10:45

Tags: Imagination Technologies (LON:IMG), MIPS, ARM

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In somewhat of a surprise move, it was revealed yesterday that California-based MIPS Technologies had been snagged-up by English Imagination Technologies, to the tune of £38 million.

MIPS Technologies has been around since 1984, producing designs and architectures of RISC CPU chips that have found themselves placed in set-top boxes, media centres, TVs, routers and much more, all around the world, in fact, even Sony's PlayStation 1, 2, Portable and Nintendo's N64 utilised cores built upon the MIPS architecture, as it provided a cheap and simple alternative to competing designs.

Imagination Technologies is best known for bringing us the PowerVR graphics-core which can be found paired with MIPS, ARM and Intel products in the low-power markets. Perhaps most famously, graphics cores from the firm were utilised in products such as Sega's Dreamcast, Sony's PS Vita, most Apple i devices and many Intel Atom cores featuring integrated Intel GMA graphics.

MIPS Products

MIPS is perhaps less well-known in the consumer market of today, however over 700 million devices featuring MIPS technology shipped in the previous year alone, generating £38 million in revenue, though the firm had been operating at a significant net loss. As we reported earlier in the year, MIPS has also been hard at work designing competitive architectures for re-entrance into the mobile segment. Imagination has, for its money, received 82 patents and 160 engineers, as well as a license to access 498 other patents, that the firm had sold-off separately from the buyout.

It was a consortium led by ARM that forked-out £218 million to buy the 498-strong patent portfolio of MIPS, providing access to new approaches to chip design and adding some security to the firm, as MIPS had been the company's strongest competitor on the immediate horizon.

With this purchase, almost all major mobile chip IP now resides within the UK, though as floating companies, firms such as Intel and Apple all have their paws in the intellectual honey pot as shareholders, though, with any luck, this will also prevent any one company from taking part in a complete buyout.

HEXUS Forums :: 4 Comments

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Be interesting to see if Imagination continue to license and develop MIPS CPU designs, whether they just use the talent internally to make their own SOC or just hoover the patents and let the rest whither away.

The biggest MIPS role in my house is my little Mikrotik router and I bet a lot of us have more MIPS cores around than we realise. I'd have thought ARM would have an interest in squashing MIPS and forcing companies to look for another low-power architecture…
Hmm, can't say I saw that one coming; it wasn't too long ago I heard about something akin to a Cortex competitor, and I haven't been keeping up to date with them much lately, but I didn't realise they were running at a loss. I imagine they will continue to support existing MIPS cores, but I wonder what will happen to newer/high end IP? It could be good if they carried on developing, but it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to develop two competing cores in parallel. I suppose it depends on how Imagination/ARM plan to work together.
I suppose it depends on how Imagination/ARM plan to work together.

They don't really do they? It's the licensees (TI/Apple) who integrate the IP to form SOCs, ARM have their own GPU designs competing with Imagination's.

Looks like ARM just helped lubricate the deal by buying up MIPS patents with their consortium to reduce the value of MIPS itself and separately Imagination bought up the leftovers. I'm confused as to why ARM would seemingly pass up the chance to grab a serious competitors business and eliminate them from the game.
No, and that's not exactly what I meant. I just meant, depending on the circumstances of the sale/patent licenses between the two/etc, MIPS cores may or may not be developed further. After some brief searching (bit preoccupied to read about it properly ATM) it seems like Imagination essentially bought the company, and ARM bought a load of patents.