Imagination Technologies to design RISC-V cores

Now better known for its PowerVR embedded GPUs, Imagination Technologies tried to enter the CPU market by purchasing MIPS Technologies and introducing microAptiv, interAptiv, and proAptiv cores in 2012.

It did not end up well, as the company had to sell its MIPS technology a few years later, and the MIPS architecture is now barely supported. But Imagination is now working on getting back into the CPU space by designing RISC-V cores.

At least that’s what the company revealed in a press release also announcing overall revenues increased by 55% to $76m in H1 2021, with $70m in cash, and no external third-party debt.

This year Imagination is re-entering the CPU market with designs based around the RISC-V open ISA. Imagination’s heritage in CPU enables it to provide innovative and patent protected technologies for the discrete CPU market as well as addressing demand for heterogeneous solutions that combine GPU, CPU and AI processors. This strategy will enable further growth.

That’s about all there’s in the PR, but a May 2021 report by the Financial Times claims Imagination expects to invest up to $150m over the next two years to target a fresh push into the processor design market, specifically citing the RISC-V architecture.

The announcement should probably not surprise anyone, as last year, the company published a free RISC-V course entitled “RVfpga: Understanding Computer Architecture“, and now available in several languages. That’s an also interesting move, as right now, as Imagination Technologies and Vivante GPUs, are basically the only options for RISC-V cores, as Arm may not be interested in providing Mali GPU IP to competing platforms. So far on RISC-V processors with PowerVR GPU have been announced, but at least one company is working on a RISC-V SoC with a Vivante GPU. In any case, that means that in the future, we could see RISC-V SoCs with both Imagination Technologies CPU and GPU IP blocks.

Via Tom’s Hardware

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14 Replies to “Imagination Technologies to design RISC-V cores”

  1. > “patent protected technologies for the discrete CPU market”
    For sure that’s definitely what RISC-V customers are looking for, being tied to death with a single vendor, who managed to let MIPS die using exactly the same absurd approach… At least the difference here is that they don’t own RISC-V so only their offering will die again while others will continue their business. It’s as usual, great ideas are turned into successful products, bad ones are patented.

    1. putting history aside, regarding riscv: it depends on what they mean by patented.

      if they create a soc using their “patented secret sauce” that’s competitive without any proprietary isa-extensions, it would actually be awesome. even better if it came with an opensource vulkan driver.

      even if it has proprietary isa-extensions, as long as they follow in the footsteps of opengl/vulkan where these extensions actually go into a future version of the open isa, it would be completely fine.

      patented isa-extensions however would be a no-go.

      1. you forgot that you have to spell Imagination Tech with ‘Closed, Patented, NDA-ed’. Their hardware offerings will die when they cease to update/provide the software side.

    2. Fortunately it should be able to execute regular RISC-V code, otherwise they cannot call it RISC-V in any way.

  2. What Imagination need to do, but will not do ? Is provide GPU to RISC V, with quality Linux, Android drivers.

    1. That’s what never happened neither for the very first kyro nor for the intel poulsbo nor for any mobile… Whenever I’m reading imagination and gpu in one sentence im moving on.

      Panfrost, Lima and Etnaviv are too good to bother with the rest.

        1. I was close to buying one back in the time… No clue why I didn’t. Probably because gfx performance never was a huge concern of mine?!

          1. Probably it was when a while later i got a riva tnt? No clue how that all fits onto the timeline

      1. As for apple it is no issue you only have a driver for one os and no possibility to support anything else.

        Imagination and apple – match made in heaven…

        1. Apparently not, since Apple sent Imagination to the Shadow Realm and made their own GPUs instead. But they have clawed their way back out.

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