LONDON – According to the slide set distributed by processor intellectual property licensor ARM to accompany its announcement of the Mali-T658 graphics core, Intel is a semiconductor partner within the "Mali graphics ecosystem."
The situation is surprising given Intel's competitive position with ARM on general purpose processor technology and because Intel is thought to have an internal graphics development capability and is also a licensee of PowerVR cores from ARM's graphics rival, Imagination Technologies Group plc (Kings Langley, England).
Indeed, Intel is more than just a licensor of Imagination's graphics cores. Intel has in the past taken a shareholding in Imagination. In June 2009 Intel held nearly 14 percent of the company. At about the same time Apple, another licensee of PowerVR graphics cores, increased its stake in Imagination to 9.5 percent.
However, for a company as large as Intel – which is expected to have $50 billion in revenues in 2011 – it is possible that in different application areas it has different graphics strategies. One reason that Intel may be licensed to use Mali graphics cores is that it may have inherited a license through the acquisition of the wireless business unit of Infineon Technologies AG which took place at the end of 2010.
ARM claims to have 57 Mali licenses signed with 43 partners and to have ten companies paying royalties so far. However, only about 20 semiconductor partner companies are listed on ARM's "logofest" ecosystem slides. Often companies wish to keep their licensing activities secret for as long as possible for commercial reasons.
Broadcom, Cisco, Intel, Samsung and STMicroelectronics and many Chinese fabless chip companies are listed as Mali semiconductor partners. Detail of the "logofest" is shown below.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.