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Imagination licenses PowerVR, won't say who to

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Imagination Technologies, the UK technology company behind the PowerVR line of mobile-friendly graphics cores, last week announced its next-gen chip design has been licensed by... er... someone.

We can be a little more specific: by "an international electronics systems company", which is all Imagination would coyly reveal.

It's good news for Imagination, of course, which gains a new source of licensing and royalty revenue. It has already licensed the technology to most, if not all, of the world's makers of ARM-based processors.

Attempts to guess the identity of the "international electronics systems company" will inevitably turn to Apple. As we noted last week, a peek at the iPhone firmware apparantly reveals the device contains a PowerVR MBX grahics core.

MBX isn't Imagination's next-genration technology, but its SGX chip design is. SGX brings programmable shader technology to the mobile GPU family.

iPhone's CPU appears to be a Samsung-made part, and Samsung has also licensed MBX. So it's likely the MBX GPU is built into the iPhone's processor. However, Apple will already be looking to the improvements it can make for the next version of the handset, and it might well have decided it can get more out of the platform if it gets hold of the core itself.

Indeed: "The SoCs to be developed under this licence agreement will be produced for this new partner by Imagination’s existing semiconductor partners and/or new chip manufacturing partners," the chip designer said.

PowerVR most famously found a home as the graphics core employed in Sega's Dreamcast console in the mid-1990s. It lives on in devices from Sony Ericsson, Texas Instruments, Intel and others.

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