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. wco81

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    Who's strong in mobile GPUs now?

    Nvidia seems to have pretty much abandoned the market and not sure if anyone is using AMD either.

    I guess even if there was a better GPU architecture, switching would be a problem for backwards compatibility? Or are iOS games and apps. in general using abstracted APIs which would transition to other GPUs?
     
  2. Entropy

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    The problem with this narrative is that it isn't , as far as I can see, consistent with actual events.
    If Apples GPUs were dependent on IMG IP, then why would they announce cancelling their licensing deal at all? And why wouldn't IMG or their new owners sue the pants off Apple, they could effectively block Apples iPhone and iPad sales and would be wading in damages! Yet neither old nor new IMG owners have done so. And it is utterly inexplicable why Apple didn't simply buy IMG and all its IP when they put themselves up for sale, the $550 million Canyon Bridge paid is peanuts to avoid a Chinese company owning IP critical to Apples devices.

    It doesn't compute.
     
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  3. ToTTenTranz

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    Apple, Qualcomm / Adreno on all Snapdragons and ARM / Mali on everything else (Samsung, HiSilicon, Mediatek).

    IMG / PowerVR has been pretty much gone from the news for the past couple of years. Outside of a couple of TV SoCs where 3D performance is rather irrelevant, the only design win they got that I can remember from the last couple of years was Mediatek P90, and I don't see a lot of Mediatek P90 phones out there. Mediatek was fairly successful this year with the G90, which is a "gaming-oriented" mid-range SoC and has a Mali GPU...

    So yeah, without the Apple licensing deals IMG is done for. With the AMD RDNA deal, Samsung probably isn't coming back to IMG anymore and the chinese companies seem to prefer ARM GPUs even for their gaming and high-end solutions.

    Timing.
    Apple announced their "separation" from IMG in April 2017, and their wording implied a "gradual decline" of IP licensing from IMG, not a sudden drop for their Ax SoCs. Meaning that gradual decline would probably mean they'd get to stop paying IMG a couple of years down the line.
    IMG instantly got in financial trouble after that announcement (duh), meaning there was a chance they'd file for bankrupcy between then and now. Had that happened, apple wouldn't have to pay them a cent (your company can't sue anyone if your company doesn't exist).
    But in late 2017 IMG got acquired by a chinese investor who got the cash flowing again, so after that same couple of years apple had to renew the licensing agreement.

    Typical corporation power moves IMO.
     
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  4. ^M^

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    Apple's obligations would just have been transferred to IMG's creditors.
     
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  5. ToTTenTranz

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    Who probably are now lacking the technological talent to build up a case against the richest corporation in the world.
     
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  6. Nebuchadnezzar

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    Apple *never announced anything*, and there is no longer any official press release of the matter existing in any of the two companies official communications anymore. Apple had a regular business meeting with IMG where they said what was said, and IMG went public with that due to UK public company listing regulations forcing to communicate to shareholders on substantive material changes in the company's future perspectives. Apple made a business power move and bluff that backfired badly and they didn't expect IMG to go public with it, and they never had a clean room GPU at all. IMG didn't sue because there was nothing to sue because Apple never breached contract and continued to pay their dues. Now their multi-year license agreement was up for renewal (The press release even says it's been active since 2014, else it wouldn't be replaced), and guess what, they renewed it, because they rely on and use the IP.
     
    #146 Nebuchadnezzar, Jan 2, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  7. Silent_Buddha

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    Not true, even if the creditors didn't have the necessary expertise there are plenty of holding companies that specialize in patent litigation using IP from defunct companies. The creditors would either hire one of those companies or sell the IP portfolio to them.

    Alternatively, Apple could buy them after they go out of business, however that could prove tricky with regulators considering Apple's timing with their announcement that could be viewed as predatory in such a case.

    Regards,
    SB
     
  8. tangey

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    I find it extremely unlikely that Apple did not realise that telling IMG in a point blank fashion that they would be stopping all payments, would result in forcing IMG to announce it publicly. Apple was such a dominate income source for IMG, that under UK compmany law,in each full year results IMG had to state that a substantial income revenue was from a single customer.

    My personal opinion of the situation is that Apple fully intended to stop paying IMG any royalties, with an argument that they were not using any IMG IP, knowing that IMG was a loss making business and was not in a postion to defend its IP from a multi-year case that could cost many £10Ms.

    Once Canyonbridge bought IMG, Apple's position changed.Ironically, IMG was only in a position to be bought because the threat of withdrawal of income from Apple, made the business extremely weak.

    IP and patents are worth next to nothing, if the rights holder can not afford to defend them.
     
    #148 tangey, Jan 7, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2020
  9. Ailuros

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    If I'm not misinterpreting IMG's roadmap they'll integrate in a future generation RT into the pipeline.
     
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  10. Ailuros

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    Albeit highly likely, how sure can we be that Apple didn't develop its own GPU? I know it was just a rumor but it has been circulating for enough time to develop a GPU from ground up. If Samsung could just trash such an expensive project in favor of AMD GPU IP, who guarantees that there could have been a similar case here with Apple? Yes Apple would had theoretically been able to develop a GPU, but I wouldn't be as confident that the first attempt would be more than just barely competitive then other GPU IP right now shipping. If such a project ever existed, then the result would have to be by a healthy margin more efficient than IMG's Alborix or whatever they call it these days.
     
  11. Ailuros

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    It would had been somewhat gone if Apple would had stopped using IMG's IP. IF hypothetically Apple and Samsung would had used 100% in house GPU IP, then what I'd say would be that GPU IP is done for any high end GPU in ULP SoCs, but not necessarily that ARM's GPU IP is "gone".

    There are other markets outside the smartphone SoCs that might not be as cut throat and as high volume as the latter, but they still add up. For automotive for example high volumes for anything mainstream and low end should be shared between ARM and IMG for GPU IP. On a sidenote that market will probably also go through major shifts; if any companies should want to develop in the their own solutions the need for GPU IP might not necessarily shrink.

    On a sidenote the entire market was/is shifting for a long time now. I don't recall the gentleman's nickname which posted here back when things looked bad for IMG but he did claim that having insight on IMG's roadmap he was positive that they'll be back on their feet in a couple of years. IMG's bet was to create something to get Apple back for a multi-year license and they've achieved it.
     
  12. tangey

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    The official news release that IMG made to the UK stock market stating clearly that Apple told them they would "no longer be eligible for royalty payments", is still in the public realm.
    https://www.investegate.co.uk/imagi...arding-license-agreement/201704030700112844B/
     
  13. Nebuchadnezzar

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    Samsung never dropped their in-house GPU afaik. As for Apple having a completely different GPU alongside their current Ax one, I somewhat doubt it. The issue is simply it'd need to be a completely different design team with a strict firewall.
     
  14. Ailuros

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    That's an interesting twist. A waste of resources IMHO considering how dirt cheap it is to license IP.
     
  15. Nebuchadnezzar

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    They've been very unhappy with Mali and they're seemingly unwilling to work with IMG, plus they have a massive internal market across TV+mobile so I'm not sure licensing is actually cheaper in that regard.
     
  16. Kaotik

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    Did you miss the part where Samsung licensed RDNA from AMD and are going to use it in their future SoCs? I see absolutely no reason to think Samsung still works on their GPU IP after they licensed RDNA, especially since Samsung competes in markets where AMD has no presence at the moment (except digital signage, but they apparently require quite a bit more oomph than mobile SoCs can offer so AMD should be safe there)
     
  17. Nebuchadnezzar

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    I didn't miss anything, I wrote exactly what I meant to.
     
  18. Ailuros

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    Are they even paying both licensing fees and royalties or just one of the two? I haven't seen financial results from IMG for eons (do they even get published under the CB umbrella?), but when they used to the average per chip royalty was < 30 cents. Plus I would be very surprised if Apple is not getting any generous discounts because of volumes compared to other IMG partners.
    In Samsung's case I find it hard to believe that ARM is not closing at least one eye for all those years in order to keep them. Apart from that if they're willing to use their own in house IP it's a tall order for them since no matter how disgruntled they are with Mali they'd have to at least do better than that.
     
  19. Nebuchadnezzar

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    I think the issue with Mali is rather that they're just not competitive in PPA, whatever low licensing cost they have is counteracted by the fact you have to have a bigger GPU to remain competitive. Even the newest G77/Valhall is just too thinly spread across the spectrum in core scaling because they need to cater to too many customers and thus the PPA suffers at the high end compared to Apple/IMG/Qualcomm.
     
  20. Ailuros

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    Too bad for ARM that they didn't foresee the need for a higher end GPU IP core years ago; eventually with the high end mobile GPU market being for its majority from in house GPU IP from the biggest players, GPU IP is effectively dead for that market in the longrun.
     
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