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Friday, December 19, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Intel ups stake in Imagination following Apple's buy-in

Two days after Apple purchased a 3.6 percent share in Imagination Technologies, Intel increased its own stake in the British graphics chip design firm to a comparable share, filings show.

Working through its strategic investment arm Intel Capital Corporation, the world's largest chipmaker acquired a further 934,422 shares in Imagination to boost its aggregate holding to 6,934,422 shares, representing 3.04 percent of Imagination's total issued voting rights.

Like Apple, which licenses Imagination's graphics technology for use in current and future iPhones as well as the iPod touch, Intel is also a licensee of the company's upcoming 3D technology, which it plans to incorporate into its Atom processor for netbooks and other mobile internet devices (MIDS).

It remains unclear what prompted Intel to boost its stake in the developer of PowerVR chipsets less than 48 hours after Apple.

Apple's multi-year, multi-IP, multi-use licence to Imagination's current and future portfolio of PowerVR mobile graphics components includes the next generation PowerVR SGX VXD video IP cores. Those parts will introduce OpenGL ES 2.0 support, along with a Universal Scalable Shader Engine that will provide future Apple mobile devices with highly efficient, shader-based 3D graphics.

In addition to being backwards compatible with code developed for the current iPhone and iPod touch, the new cores will also run that code with better performance and efficiency.

When combined with the assets it recently acquired from fabless chip design firm PA Semi and the tools of its current system-on-a-chip (SoC) manufacturing partner Samsung, Apple is expected to use its licenses to Imagination's portfolio to build a new breed of unique mobile SoCs that will power future versions of its handheld products like the iPhone and iPod touch.

It's unlikely that rival device makers will be able to match the advantages of Apple's new offerings with off-the-shelf parts and generic software platforms such as Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian.

Additional Reading

Apple suspected in new deal for PowerVR graphics in multi-touch devices

Apple's bionic ARM to muscle advanced gaming graphics into iPhones

Apple's PA Semi working on ARM chip for next-gen iPhone