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Apple and Imagination strike GPU deal after briefly parting ways

The Apple A12 Bionic features a custom-designed GPU. (Source: Apple)
The Apple A12 Bionic features a custom-designed GPU. (Source: Apple)
Apple has entered into a new licensing agreement with Imagination Technologies to use a wider range of the company’s extensive mobile GPU and AI patent portfolios. The two companies had previously been close partners before Apple ended the GPU supply partnership to start developing mobile GPUs for its iPhones and iPads in house in 2017.
Sanjiv Sathiah,
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Apple has struck a deal with UK-based Imagination Technologies that will allow the Cupertino giant to use a wider range of Imaginations patented IP in its mobile GPU and AI processor designs. The companies had been close partners with Imagination supplying Apple with its Power VR mobile GPUs for use in its iPhones and iPads. However, a licensing deal fell through after Apple decided it would make its own GPUs in house. At the time, Imagination claimed that it would be “extremely challenging” for Apple to design its own GPUs without violating Imagination’s patents.

Following the loss of Apple, easily its biggest client, Imagination was bought out by a Chinese-based investment group. Apple subsequently released its first in-house designed mobile GPU as part of the A11 Bionic SoC that powered the iPhone X. It has since continued using its own GPUs in subsequent iPhones and iPads. It hasn't been made clear if Apple managed to develop its own GPU IP or was reliant on Imagination's IP for the past couple of years even though an official deal doesn't appear to have been struck during this period.

The new “multi-year license agreement” gives Apple official access to much wider range of Imagination’s mobile GPU IP as well as its AI technologies. The A11 Bionic also included the first neural processing engine in an iPhone and the new agreement will undoubtedly help Apple continue to develop this technology as well. Apple already licenses ARM technology for its custom A-series chips with the new deal allowing Apple to use Imagination’s underlying technology but further optimize it for its own purposes. Silicon differentiation has been a key part of Apple’s mobile strategy having been formulated under the late Steve Jobs.

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Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - Senior Tech Writer - 1254 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2017
I have been writing about consumer technology over the past ten years, previously with the former MacNN and Electronista, and now Notebookcheck since 2017. My first computer was an Apple ][c and this sparked a passion for Apple, but also technology in general. In the past decade, I’ve become increasingly platform agnostic and love to get my hands on and explore as much technology as I can get my hand on. Whether it is Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation, each has plenty to offer and has given me great joy exploring them all. I was drawn to writing about tech because I love learning about the latest devices and also sharing whatever insights my experience can bring to the site and its readership.
contact me via: @t3mporarybl1p
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2020 01 > Apple and Imagination strike GPU deal after briefly parting ways
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2020-01- 2 (Update: 2020-01- 2)