ARM and friends take the MIPS patents, Imagination gets what’s left
US chip pioneer MIPS has been bought by UK firm Imagination, while a consortium led by arch-rival ARM has bought MIPS patents, in a deal which underlines the growing importance of low-energy processors, and the UK’s strength in this field.
ARM has put up nearly half of the $350 million price for 498 of MIPS patents, which were sold to a consortium. The rest of the company – including its remaining patents – is going for $60 million to Imagination Technologies. Imagination, which designs graphic processors for devices including the iPhone hopes to use MIPS technology to step up into other processor tech.
End of an era for MIPS
The patents have been bought by Bridge Crossing, an “acquisition vehicle” created by Allied Security Trust, an intellectual property buying group. ARM has issued a press release saying it put up $167.5 million of the $350 million for the MIPS patents, but it is not clear who else is involved. AST has 26 members including HP, IBM, Intel, Oracle, Phillips and RIM.
Established for nearly 30 years, MIPS was a pioneer of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) in the 1980s, and moved in the 1990s to licensing its core designs for embedded processors, a similar business model to the UK’s ARM.
Despite early success, and a continuing presence in devices including Cisco routers and set-top boxes, MIPS has been eclipsed by ARM, which won the lion’s share of the processor market for smartphones and tablets. MIPS-based chips are in some low-cost Android tablets, including the Karbonn and Miumiu (shown here).
Although Imagination doesn’t get the key patents from MIPS, it will get expertise and staff, and hopes to reach upwards from its base in graphics processing to make general purpose processors which could eventually compete with ARM-based silicon.
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