Apple is preparing to develop its own mobile GPU that it will use in future iPhones and iPads. The surprising news came not from Apple, but from Imagination Technologies, the UK-based company that develops the PowerVR GPU that is currently used in Apple’s mobile devices, including its iPods, the Apple TV and the Apple Watch. Today, it confirmed that Apple will no longer use its PowerVR chips in its products “in 15 months to two years time.” That means the iPhone that is released in the fall of 2018 could be the first without a PowerVR chip, and the first with Apple’s new in-house GPU.
This is a massive blow to Imagination; Apple’s use of its PowerVR chip represents about half of the company’s current revenue. It’s no surprise that the price of Imagination’s stock went down by a whopping 70 percent in trading today.
In today’s press release, Imagination said that while Apple claims it will design its own GPU, it has offered no proof that the chip will not use any of Imagination’s patents, IP or other confidential information. The company added that, in its opinion, Apple will find it “extremely challenging to design a brand new GPU architecture from basics” without using IP from Imagination. Whether or not this is true or if this is just saber rattling from the company remains to be seen. Imagination did state it is in discussions with Apple on making “alternative commercial arrangements” for their current agreements.
In any event, the iPhone that is released from Apple in 2018 is looking like it will have both a CPU and GPU designed by the company. So far, the folks at Cupertino have yet to weigh in on this development, but it looks like there will be a major shake up in the mobile graphics chip industry as a result of this move. One thing that’s almost certain is a huge loss for Imagination, unless it can come to terms with Apple on the possible use of its IP in Apple’s future GPU.