Feeds

Apple signals its mobile-graphics future

Cupertino's $4.8m hint

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Word surfaced today in a "Listing of shares" announcement by British SoC developer Imagination Technologies that "Apple Inc. is subscribing for 8,200,000 new shares of Imagination Technologies Group plc." Apple is shelling out around $4.8m for that 3.6 per cent stake in the graphics and video chip designer.

In a week when the Mac faithful are moping about Apple's impending tradeshowus interruptus, the news of the company's buying into Imagination Technologies came as a strong dose of good news, and one that augurs well for future display capabilities in Apple's mobile products - be they the iPhone, iPod, iNetBook, iTablet, or iCanOnlyImagine.

Imagination Technologies logo

Imagination Technologies describes itself as a company that "creates market-leading embedded graphics, video and display acceleration." Apple apparently agrees, as evidenced not only by this investment, but also by its use of Imagination's PowerVR MBX graphics technology in the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The PowerVR MBX is a fine piece of work, but Imagination's next steps up in graphics goodness, the PowerVR SGX GPU and PowerVR VXD Video Decoder, are what bear watching for auguries of future product capabilities.

The PowerVR MBX supports the open source OpenGL ES 1.1 API set (along with OpenVG 1.0 and Direct3D Mobile), which was designed for fixed-function 2D and 3D graphics hardware. The SGX and VXD support the more-powerful OpenGL ES 2.0 API set, which adds fully programmable 3D-graphics support to the mix.

The PowerVR SDX's Universal Scalable Shader Engine provides - you guessed it - shader-based 3D graphics, all in a low-power, efficient, mobile-focused package. The PowerVR VXD offloads video-decoding duties from a mobile device's CPU, and can support a variety of codecs, including H.264, H.263, MPEG-4, MPEG-2, and WMV9/VC-1.

OpenGL ES logo

Also of interest is that the PowerVR SDX supports the CPU-liberating capabilities of general-purpose computing on GPUs (GPGPU), which promise to greatly enhance such highly parallelized functions as media processing and voice recognition. As we reported last week, the Khronos Group - the same open-source clearinghouse that manages the OpenGL ES standards - has released the OpenCL 1.0 spec that will power the GPGPU-enhanced Mac OS 10.6, Snow Leopard, when it's released next year.

Seeing as how the OS running the iPhone and iPod Touch is a streamlined version of Mac OS X, there's little reason to doubt that a GPGPU-enabled Snow Leopard - which, if rumors are true, will be a highly optimized version of Mac OS X - will find itself shrunk even more to fit into Apple's next generation of mobile devices.

That is, of course, if Apple chooses to move up to the PowerVR SDX and VXD in its future mobile devices.

We'll go out on a limb and say, "Why the %$#@! not?"

After all, Apple acquired PA Semi back in April of this year, thus bringing on board the engineers they need to enhance their low-power mobile strategies. In September, Imagination announced that it had entered into a technology-licensing deal with "an international electronics systems company" and that it was "expected that Imagination's IP cores will feature in a number of new SoCs to be used in this company's future products." Few observers found it hard to guess who that "international electronics systems company" was: Apple.

Also, in April Imagination announced that they had "signed a licence agreement with Samsung ... with respect to certain POWERVR SGX graphics and VXD video IP cores" - and guess who manufactures the ARM11-based SoC that powers the iPhone and iPod Touch? Bingo: Samsung.

All signs point to future mobile products from Apple which benefit from greatly enhanced graphics and media capabilities designed by Imagination, manufactured by Samsung, and shepherded by Apple's corps of ex-PA Semi engineers.

Looked at another way, Apple's $4.8m investment in Imagination Technologies is simply a good business decision. After all, if Apple's mobile future is as rosy as it appears, and if the company knows that it'll be a profitable customer for Imagination for the foreseeable future, those 8,200,000 shares are quite likely a smart investment.

Crafty folks, those Cupertinians.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Apple's iWatch? They cannae do it ... they don't have the POWER
Analyst predicts fanbois will have to wait until next year
The agony and ecstasy of SteamOS: WHERE ARE MY GAMES?
And yes it does need a fat HDD (or SSD, it's cool with either)
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Apple to build WORLD'S BIGGEST iStore in Dubai
It's not the size of your shiny-shiny...
Just in case? Unverified 'supersize me' iPhone 6 pics in sneak leak peek
Is bigger necessarily better for the fruity firm's flagship phone?
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
Apple analyst: fruity firm set to shift 75 million iPhones
We'll have some of whatever he's having please
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?