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Wednesday, June 15, 2011, 05:30 am PT (08:30 am ET)

Next-gen graphics processor for Apple's iPhone, iPad now being licensed

Imagination Technologies is now licensing its PowerVR Series6 mobile graphics processing architecture, the next generation of the hardware found in Apple's iPhone and iPad, to six key partners — three of which remain secret.

The new processor, code-named "Rogue," was revealed to have been licensed by ST-Ericsson, Texas Instruments and MediaTek. The remaining three partners are "yet to be announced," but given the fact that Apple is a major shareholder of the company, its involvement could be considered likely.

As first reported by AppleInsider in 2008, Apple purchased a 3 percent stake in Imagination Technologies, and in 2009 the iPhone maker increased its share to 9.5 percent.

Imagination said this week that its PowerVR Series6 GPU family offers best-in-class "GFLOPS per mm2 and per mW for all APIs." The company also touted that it has "one of the largest teams of graphics engineers in the world," and that its chips have powered hundreds of thousands of applications created by "an extensive ecosystem of third party developers."

"The growing commitment of the primary players to our roadmap shows that, having evaluated the options, the overall mobile and embedded market is increasingly committing to PowerVR as the de facto graphics standard," said Imagination CEO Hossein Yassaie.

AppleInsider was first to reveal in January that the then-unannounced iPad 2 would pack PowerVR's dual-core SGX543 graphics inside Apple's custom A5 processor. The same chip and graphics are expected to be featured in the anticipated fifth-generation iPhone.

Apple A5 die pop


More specifically, the graphics processor in the iPad 2 is the PowerVR SGX543MP2, which Apple has claimed helps to boost graphics in the A5 processor by as much as nine times. Benchmarks of just the SGX543GPU have found it to be much faster than its peers powering devices like the Motorola Xoom, or even 2010's first-generation iPad.

With the A5 chip already in mass production for the iPad 2 and the same architecture expected to be utilized in the anticipated fifth-generation iPhone, it's unlikely that Imagination's new "Rogue" graphics processor could appear until at least a so-called "A6" custom Apple processor were to become a reality. The new PowerVR Series6 GPUs are said to be "fully compatible" with Imagination's previous Series5 and Series5XT PowerVR SGX GPUs, which the company said will ensure "a smooth migration path for developers upgrading applications."