收购MIPS,无意之中离间了ARM与Imagination

上网时间: 2012年11月09日? 作者:Junko Yoshida? 我来评论 【字号: ? ?小】

关键字:MIPS? ARM? Imagination?

ARM, Imagination divvy up MIPS

Junko Yoshida

· MIPS Technologies, which has been on the block for almost a year, finally found buyers in a complicated deal involving Imagination Technologies and ARM.

NEW YORK -- MIPS Technologies, which had been on the block for almost a year, finally found buyers in a complicated deal involving Imagination Technologies and ARM.

Imagination said Tuesday (Nov. 6) it has agreed to buy MIPS' operating business for $60 million. Under terms of the deal, the U.K. graphics IP vendor will gain 160 engineers and 82 MIPS patents.

The move is viewed as a way for Imagination to beef up its CPU core expertise while defending its graphics lead. It would also position Imagination to competing against ARM, which has been pursuing its integrated CPU-GPU solution strategy.

Separately, ARM said it will lead a consortium buying the rights to the MIPS portfolio of 498 patents. The consortium, called Bridge Crossing LLC, will pay $350 million in cash to purchase the rights to the portfolio, of which ARM will contribute $167.5 million.

Bridge Crossing is an acquisition vehicle for Allied Security Trust (AST), a consortium of companies with a history of buying up patents. The consortium often sells off or licenses those patents. Consortium members include Avaya, HP, IBM, Intel, Motorola, Oracle, Philips, Research in Motion and others.

J. Scott Gardner, a senior analyst at The Linley Group, said “ARM purchased rights to all of the MIPS patents, so they have legal peace.” What remains unclear, however, is whether companies such as Qualcomm, Broadcom and Apple will have to purchase their own licenses for access to the AST portfolio, Gardner added. “As I understand it, the entire purpose of AST is to keep patents from falling into the hands of trolls. I assume that these other companies are part of the AST group and are also safe," he said.

Asked during a conference call, which companies belong to AST and who have access to the MIPS portfolio of 498 patents, Imagination and MIPS executives declined to provide names.

Imagination CEO Hossein Yassaie did say 82 of the patents acquired in the deal cover key aspects of the MIPS architecture. That will help Imagination to move MIPS architecture "go forward," he noted, while protecting royalties coming from current and future MIPS licensees. Once the Imagination-MIPS deal is completed, MIPS royalties will go to Imagination, not to AST, Yassaie said.

Patent details

For those customers seeking to license MIPS technologies, Yassaie said they will go through Imagination, not the consortium. The 498 MIPS patents bought by ARM-led consortium provide the group with general patent protection rather than access to specific parts of the MIPS architecture, he added.

ARM and others in the consortium are hoping that the deal will reduce the risk of infringing any MIPS patents. The consortium will make available licenses to the patent portfolio to companies outside the consortium, ARM said.

"ARM is a leading participant in this consortium, which presents an opportunity for companies to neutralize any potential infringement risk from these patents in the further development of advanced embedded technology," ARM CEO Warren East said in a statement. "Litigation is expensive and time consuming and, in this case, a collective approach with other major industry players was the best way to remove that risk."

Imagination won't kill MIPS

Junko Yoshida

· It would be hard to come up with a better ending for struggling MIPS Technologies than the deal in which ARM and Imagination Technologies divvy up the company.

NEW YORK – Things could hardly turned out better for MIPS Technologies in the latest patent acquisition deal in which ARM and Imagination Technologies are carving up the company.

MIPS CEO Sandeep Vij insisted Tuesday (Nov. 6) after word of the deal broke that it was “done in the best interest of our industry partners, shareholders and employees.”

Indeed, the transaction “returns over three times the book value per share [of MIPS] and more than the current market capitalization value of $380 million,” said J. Scott Gardner, a senior analyst at The Linley Group. It appears that MIPS employees are OK for now since Imagination said it plans to retain most of its current MIPS workforce of about 160 employees.

The deal's price tag ($350 million from an ARM-led consortium and $60 million from Imagination) illustrates the value placed on MIPS' IP.and the fact that MIPS is also a winner in this deal.

Gardner said “the MIPS patents could have been used to extract license fees from most of the companies building CPUs.”

MIPS, a pioneer of 32- and 64-bit CPU architectures, “invented many of the key microprocessor concepts,” said Gardner. These were considered so essential that ARM led the group that was one of the keys to the acquisition, the Allied Security Trust, a consortium of companies with a history of buying up patents.

Gloves off

The most important element of the deal may be Imagination’s promise not to kill MIPS.

Many observers were undoubtedly worried about the future of the MIPS architecture. During a conference call, Imagination CEO Hossein Yassaie (left) stressed that Imagination will keep the MIPS architecture “going forward” while calling the growing CPU market “the fundamental business we need to get engaged in.”

Noting that Imagination currently has about 100 engineers on its CPU development team, Yassaie said “we will be almost doubling the team by adding MIPS engineers." Yassaie also reiterated his intention to raise the stakes in a CPU battle that is expected to be fought over connected devices.

The endgame is to merge the internal CPU development efforts at Imagination and MIPS. “There are significant similarities between our in-house CPU and that of MIPS,” Yassaie said.

Gardner, the analyst, said the new development effort means “the gloves coming off in its competition with ARM.” This could create near-term discomfort among industry players since ARM will still need to work closely with Imagination. Imagination also is Apple's GPU vendor.

The company's GPUs are also used by Intel, but Gardner doesn’t believe Intel has as much to fear from the Imagination-MIPS deal as ARM.

In the longer term, “Imagination is better off with MIPS in its portfolio of IP," he added. "Imagination’s ‘Meta’ CPU core would have required substantial time and investment” to be a serious alternative to ARM-base cores. “The combination of the two companies is ultimately stronger than either company could have been on its own."

What drove the deal?

Beyond his own CPU ambitions, Yassaie appears to see three upsides in purchasing MIPS’ operations.

First is the Android factor. MIPS is one of the only three CPU architectures directly supported by the Android OS. The other two are ARM and Intel. He expects the deal to settle the current uncertainty surrounding MIPS, giving Imagination a chance to pitch MIPS to the industry as a legitimate CPU choice – “a real alternative to ARM and Intel” – especially in the Android world. That, by extension, means the global mobile industry.

Second is the China factor. Imagination will inherit MIPS licensees, including the China-based fabless company Ingenic. Gardner explained, “Ingenic’s CEO learned to design MIPS-based processors at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has spawned several MIPS designs, including the Loongson processor based on MIPS64.” He added, “Imagination may be able to use its MIPS acquisition to gain traction for its GPUs in the companies that favor the MIPS architecture.”

Third is MIPS’ current product portfolio. Gardner said Imagination, in continuing to develop MIPS cores, will “start in a good position with the three-pronged Aptiv family of cores, including the high-performance ProAptiv line.” He noted that ARM’s recently announced Cortex-A57 “will achieve 3.9 CoreMark/MHz, which is below the MIPS ProAptiv score of 4.5 CoreMark/MHz.” Gardner added, “The MIPS cores should also consume less die area and power than the high-end ARM CPUs.”

Yassaie stressed that the MIPS deal is “not an asset acquisition,” but “a strategic acquisition.” Imagination has a strong interest in “MIPS’ business, people and prospects,” he concluded.


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  • MIPS是什么公司
  • MIPS技术公司是一家设计制造高性能、高档次及嵌入式32位和64位处理器的厂商,在RISC处理器方面占有重要地位。1984年,MIPS计算机公司成立。1992年,SGI收购了MIPS计算机公司。

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