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Qualcomm becomes Imagination Technologies licensee

Qualcomm Inc. has become a new Imagination Technologies licensee, along with MStar, Ricoh and Rockchip, joining existing partners like Sony, Intel, Mediatek, Renesas, Samsung, Sigma and Realtek.

Imagination Technologies confirmed that Qualcomm was licensing the display IP from its PowerVR portfolio.
Several months back, Wall Street pundits were speculating that Qualcomm might be readying itself to make an investment in Imagination’s GPU solution for use with Windows 8 devices.

Qualcomm has its own mobile graphics unit, and Adreno GPUs, purchased from AMD several years ago, but has been slow to integrate the offering in any meaningful way. Analysts posited that Qualcomm could invest in Imagination’s Rogue technology instead, in order to better capitalize on Windows 8 momentum, while continuing to work on its own graphics at a slower pace.

Imagination’s Rogue graphics supports a higher class of DX than Adreno, which only supports DX9, a technology soon to be two generations old.

While DX9 will work on Windows 8, it’s widely felt that users would have a better visual experience on devices supporting a higher class of DX, like Rogue which purports to support from DirectX 10 up to DirectX 11.

Imagination is one of very few companies that has the experience of delivering DirectX for SoCs, encompasses both 3D graphics capabilities and a variety of video playback features.

Qualcomm rival Texas Instruments is already licensing Imagination’s PowerVR core for future OMAP system-on-a-chip products to use with Windows 8, and Nvidia supports DX11 on its Tegra chips, meaning that Qualcomm desperately needs to up its graphical game in order to stay at the front of the mobile processing pack.

If Qualcomm were to license Imagination’s graphics technology, it would also mean that the British firm’s GPU would become the most widely adopted graphics offering for Windows 8 devices. It would also be a blow to ARM, which has been trying to license its Mali graphics IP to partners, with little success.

Currently, however, there is no solid indication that Qualcomm will be taking its license any further than simply display IP, though an Imagination spokesman said his firm now had “high hopes.”

“We really like them as a customer, we’re delighted to have Qualcomm’s business and hope it leads to something more. At least they’re a customer now,” he said.

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