Apple's ongoing use of ImgTec PowerVR GPU IP

Discussion in 'Mobile Graphics Architectures and IP' started by tangey, Apr 3, 2017.

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  1. Entropy

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    Not really.
    Remember, Apple owns a sizeable chunk of ImgTec, and were in talks about buying them outright. My guess would be that their counterpart just got too greedy, whereas Apple were well aware that the stock price of ImgTec hinged completely on their business, and thus that any valuation based on that was grossly exaggerated.

    Apple tried to cut a deal, the conditions were unacceptable, and now they are moving on.
    They have been completely open about recruiting graphics expertise with the purpose of developing new "world class" gfx solutions, so there is no surprise for anyone there, least of all ImgTec since some of their own people were recruited to Apple!
     
  2. Exophase

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    IMG hasn't really made their own chips in a long time.. they'd probably need a highly qualified licensee to pursue this and who really wants to go that route anymore?
     
  3. sebbbi

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    Intel used IMG GPUs in some of their low end CPUs a few years ago. But nowadays their own GPU is pretty good. Full DX12.1 support, solid drivers and pretty good performance.

    Both discrete GPU makers nowadays produce high end compute hardware for HPC. You need high compute performance, exotic memory configurations, virtual memory and coherence, GPU virtualization (virtual machines), multi-GPU links, etc, etc... Workstation uses (Quadro, FirePro) also need specific optimized drivers for most popular DCC tools.
     
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  4. Ailuros

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    Intel never used IMG GPU IP for anything that was above the ULP mobile form factor and it's the same Intel that has killed its own relevant hardware recently for both smartphones and ultra thin (<10") tablets. Au contraire Intel has struck a weird deal with the Tsinghua University in China where Spreadtrum is manufacturing at Intel's foundries a mainstream smartphone SoC with an octa core Atom CPU and IMG GPU IP, whereby Tsinghua has actually bought shares in IMG shortly after Intel sold its own.

    Neither Apple nor Microsoft seems to be all that happy with Intel's GPU IP from the whispers in the background. What makes sense for Apple is to have way more ambitious plans for the less foreseeable future and that not only for iOS platforms in the longrun. In any other case why the heck bother when the existing licensed GPU IP covers their iOS/ ULP mobile needs and on top of that costs them only 25 cents per core on average.

    Albeit I consider it unlikely that Apple will agree that easily, "IF" IMG manages to squeeze out a smaller sum per core than the above 25 cents it still would be a pure win for them since they wouldn't really need to move a finger for any random sum below that.
     
  5. ToTTenTranz

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    I'm usually the last guy to ever play advocate for apple, but maybe it's a move they took because IMG started to become more difficult to partner with..


    Rambus?
     
  6. 3dilettante

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    Intergraph or Transmeta in their lawsuits against Intel after their hardware efforts were dead or dying.
    I think there could be arguments as to Intel's willingness to implement infringing features and stomach the fines, which actually might make the comparison apt if Apple is trying the same thing.

    SCO's lawsuit over Unix/Linux, the Novel patent pool bidding war, etc.
     
  7. Ailuros

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    Not IMHO; whatever it is we'll find out eventually what really is going on. I just can't get rid of the feeling that it's merely a tactical move from Apple.
     
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  8. 3dilettante

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    If Apple's outward position is that they are going their own way and won't need IMG and won't in any way need its IP, they probably should be willing and ready to actually walk away.
    If it's a bluff on a license of tens of millions of dollars a year, Apple better hope IMG caves/implodes and Apple gets the IP since IMG and the world at large would know Apple's whole 2018-2019 and ever after multi-billion dollar mobile business has a noose around its neck.

    That's plenty of motivation for IMG to hang on for a few years, or for someone else to do so.
    However, preparing to walk away would involve a bit more strategic investment into in-house capability or other partnerships, and then what is this really saving?
     
  9. Malo

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    Couldn't they just drop legacy support though? After all they're Apple and do whatever the fuck they want and still sell utter shit in droves. Since it's Apple it would actually turn into a marketing campaign for them showing as a feature.
     
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  10. Pressure

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    Their vertical integration would allow it, compared to other vendors.
     
  11. 3dilettante

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    If you take at face value IMG's statement that making any GPU cannot help but infringe, whereas Apple briefly claimed courage for removing the headphone jack, the bards and angels shall sing of Apple's valor in abandoning pixels for all time.
     
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  12. idsn6

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    Bring back vector displays.
     
  13. fuboi

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    RAYTRACE EVERY PIECE OF SCREEN :runaway: YES EVEN THE UI

    So PVRTC IP is a clear stumbling block. Can you claim PVRTC support to an app but transcode to ASTC (Apple's Super TC) in software or does the patent cover more than HW implementations?
     
  14. Entropy

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    Why on Gods green earth would you do that?
     
  15. 3dilettante

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    On the one hand, it leads to a sort-of joke where you'd have to give up on pixels to create a non-infringing GPU.
    I used the IF there to indicate that this was following a hypothetical, and combined it with the IMG's paraphrasing of Apple as not needing anything IMG has for graphics--i.e. something involving pixels.

    However, given a patent pool of sufficient size, the permissiveness of the US patent office, and how protracted litigation can result from just a few patents, I think it's plausible that there's something that could be construed as being infringing. Apple could be willing to grind its way through litigation or pay IMG to go away in the worst case. Something like a reprise of the University of Wisconsin patent lawsuit might have been priced into Apple's evaluation.
     
  16. Ailuros

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    I can't really answer your question. We know that according to public claims both sides negotiated for an acquisition which failed and it's no secret either for quite some time now that Apple is recruiting even IMG's cleaning personell in the UK. That's a whole damn lot of an effort and too many coincidences for something Apple wouldn't "need" for my taste.

    On the flip side of things I don't think I can blame Apple either; it's within nature that big fish will always attempt to devour small fish. What there really is to blame are the former upper management's nonsensical tacticts which obviously rested on the Apple laurels for PowerVR, neglected the department up the wazoo and virtually drove deal after deal into ARM's hands for GPU IP. Want to check how market shares looked like years ago for IMG and how much ARM has picked up since then?

    I don't even recall how often I said in the past that the too high dependence on Apple for PowerVR itself is extremely dangerous. If they would have say two smaller partners compared to Apple with a steady income, balances would be quite different than today. Look at Mediatek; they've one tablet SoC and one "high end" smartphone SoC with PowerVR IP right now while all other MTK SoCs contain ARM GPU IP.
     
  17. sebbbi

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    Transcode PVRTC to ASTC = decode PVRTC + encode ASTC. Even if they choose to transcode, they still need to decode PVRTC. I would assume that the patent covers PVRTC decode, otherwise Apple could just build hardware PVRTC decoders inside their texture samplers. I don't see how transcoding is going to solve the patent issue.

    I haven't read the patent myself. Maybe there's some loophole that allows "software" decode. But then again what is "software". If they use GPGPU transcoder is that considered "software"? Is microcode or FPGA considered "software"? Maybe someone needs to read the patent to find out. My educated guess is that Apple has planned a way around the PVRTC patent, whether transcoding or simply requiring ASTC textures for apps targeting next gen iPhones. Forcing ASTC wouldn't be the most consumer or developer friendly move, but they control the whole ecosystem. This is certainly doable. The most visible downside would be that some old apps wouldn't get updated and wouldn't be available on newest iPhones/iPads. Developers would also need to submit two builds, one with PVRTC textures for older iPhones/iPads and one with ASTC for newer ones.
     
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  18. nutball

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    Naive question - but could they not just do it in the iStore? They deliver the apps to the end-user, could they not just trawl through them and forcibly convert the textures, without involving the app developers? Or is there something in the differences between the two that would make this impractical or potentially problematic (ie. lead to obvious visual differences)?
     
  19. french toast

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    Look for huawei or someone to buy them up.
     
  20. pipo

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    Pretty good overview here: http://appleinsider.com/articles/17...ubic-imagination-fears-becoming-a-tech-orphan

     
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