Apple likes to have control over as much of the technology used inside its devices as possible. The desire for control even extends as far as the processor at the heart of the iPad and iPhone, which Apple designs itself. Now it seems, Apple is bringing the design of the GPU in-house, too.
If you go back to the first iPhone in 2007, or the first iPad in 2010, you’ll find a PowerVR GPU inside. Those chips are designed by British company Imagination Technologies, which has enjoyed a very healthy relationship with Apple until now across phone, tablet, TV, and watch hardware (even the brand new iPad uses a PowerVR GT7600 GPU). But a press release put out today by Imagination reveals its Apple relationship is coming to an end.
Apple informed Imagination recently that ” it will no longer use the Group’s intellectual property in its new products in 15 months to two years time.” Apparently Apple is developing its own GPU, which will replace PowerVR and any other Imagination-owned technology or IP in future devices.
Imagination is treating this news with quite a bit of suspicion, stating the company believes, “it would be extremely challenging to design a brand new GPU architecture from basics without infringing its intellectual property rights, accordingly Imagination does not accept Apple’s assertions.”
Those suspicions are clearly made worse by the fact Apple is refusing to present evidence that it will no longer require or use Imagination’s technology or violate any patents it owns.
Imagination’s reaction is understandable. Apple’s products have relied on PowerVR for over a decade and Apple knows the licensed technology intimately. To produce their own replacement from scratch and without violating any Imagination IP would be quite impressive, especially considering compatibility needs to be maintained with all existing App Store software.
According to The Verge, Apple owns 8 percent of Imagination and did pursue an acquisition of the company last year. Ultimately that didn’t happen for unknown reasons, and it now looks as though the relationship could end badly and be followed by legal action. That all depends on the GPU Apple reveals in, based on Imagination’s timetable, July 2018 at the earliest.