In a deal that pits the company head to head with near neighbor ARM, Imagination Technologies has decided to buy the patents not sought by the Bridge Crossing consortium as well as the business of MIPS Technologies including the CPU architectures and cores. The price tag was originally $60m in cash but this has been increased to $80m in the wake of a counter-bid from Ceva.
Imagination’s purchase includes ownership of 82 patent properties that are directly relevant to the MIPS architecture, as well as comprehensive license rights to all of the remaining 498 MIPS’ patent properties.
Imagination plans to continue licensing of the MIPS cores – MIPS is one of the architectures directly supported by the Android operating system. As a supplier of one of the leading graphics processor architectures for embedded systems, the deal places Imagination as one of the few companies able to provide a heterogeneous compute environment using its own IP.
Although the MIPS architecture has struggled against the rampant growth of ARM, MIPS’ customers shipped over 700 million royalty earning units in its financial year ended 30 June 2012, with 56 royalty-paying licensees. The licensing business produced around $60m on revenue during that year.
Hossein Yassaie, Chief Executive Officer, Imagination said: “MIPS is the company that pioneered the RISC CPU architecture and created an iconic and widely respected technology. I believe that the combination of our existing Meta CPU technologies and activities with MIPS’ capabilities will help us to create a new force to be reckoned with in the CPU IP market. I am confident the acquisition will accelerate our growth in the substantial CPU IP market across many segments.”
Imagination claimed the Meta and MIPS architectures have similar philosophies in several key areas including hardware multithreading, which can be used to hep hide memory latency. ARM has so far eschewed the use of multithreading arguing it increases complexity without a compelling improvement in performance.
Imagination said it will continue to support the ability to mix and match cores from different vendors. “Any customer wishing to use Imagination’s CPUs (including MIPS’ CPU), GPUs (graphics processors), VPUs (video processors) or RPU (radio processors) with IP cores from sources other than Imagination will be fully supported by Imagination without compromise,” the company said in a statement.
Shortly after the move by Imagination, DSP specialist Ceva put in a counter-offer for the MIPS business. Imagination responded by increasing its offer to $80m on Monday 10 December.