Good and interesting calls on Microchip and Intel, which we did not include in our runners and riders list.
Perhaps we should have.
BUT I still feel they would fall foul of the "don't compete with your customers" rule.
How could Microchip license microAptiv for use in microcontrollers successfully when it is sells so many microcontrollers?
How could Intel license high-end and mobile MIPS cores when it is trying to sell Atom and Ivy Bridge into the same sectors?
Intel+Marvell would be even better. Marvell is an ARM licensee and has several cores so Intel could quickly compete in the ARM market. IIRC, a chunk of Marvell used to be an Intel division, so that's another synergy. OTOH, it's possible that the ARM license wouldn't transfer to Intel, or that ARMH would make Intel pay dearly for it. Intel would have to use 25-33% of its cash to buy MRVL, however, so it probably won't happen.
Buying MIPS would just be pocket change for Intel, however. They have $15B in cash&investments, mostly short term, and MIPS market cap is only $0.353B. Even with a 40% takeover premium, the cost to Intel would be about 0.10 per share, less than half the quarterly dividend. Intel already has one of its best engineering teams in Israel, so there is synergy there as well. If Intel has any plans to acquire an ARM license, owning the MIPS IP could prevent ARMH from trying to extract too much from Intel. And Intel certainly has enough lawyers to monetize MIPS' patents and just reassign their engineers if they can't make a go of applying the MIPS architecture to mobile devices. But I very much expect that Intel could utilize the MIPS architecture for that as easy as they could do so with ARM. Especially with the latest Google developments.
But really, who wants MIPS? What has MIPS done for us or themselves lately (the past 5+ years)? And like all these suffering companies, what makes the next guy better at making it work than the last string of CEO's or owners? If you don't have real synergy, it's just going to keep withering. And how many other companies will MIPS take down with it when the architecture stalls (further)?
I'm guessing MIPS is way over-pricing themselves thinking they've got great value, when really they've just got a lot of companies by the short hairs. But they're 10 years over the hill. If nobody blinks, MIPS will be on Craigs List in another couple years.
I wouldn't put much stock in some super-secret computer-generated patent-rating algorithm (does it run on a MIPS processor?). I'd rather have two critical patents than 2000 frivolous ones.
I'm not seeing any big wins here, but potential for some big losses, with a domino effect to other IP companies. Tensilica, Ceva et al. maybe but MIPS may be too much woman for those boys to handle. Maybe ARM - or even Intel - buys MIPS just to milk them while snuffing them out.
Someone, please surprise me!
The Chinese want MIPS bad but the U.S. government won't allow it. My money is on Qualcomm, Synopsis, or Rambus. All of them are IP companies so it would make sense for them to acquire MIPS since it fits with business models. Qualcomm already uses MIPS and Synopsis would rather use MIPS than ARC because of the MIPS software ecosystem. The worst buyer would be Broadcom, that's the company which helped run MIPS into the ground.
The converse question to "Who might buy MIPS?" is "Why should MIPS want to sell?" I think the answer is probably obvious. Size matters, and MIPS feels it needs to be part of a bigger, better heeled company to survive and compete long-term in the CPU/GPU market.
And it isn't clear that ARM has won the war. The current war I see is all about power efficiency, and ARM is poised to make inroads into the server market because ARM cores use less power than Intel. It's even more vital in the mobile device market, where the scarce resource is battery charge, and you win by being able to work longer without needing to recharge.
I think a lot will hinge on just how good the newly announced MIPS designs are. If they are as power efficient as claimed, they'll get a lot of interest.
And while I don't expect it would happen, I know a company that might find MIPS a worthwhile acquisition: Intel. Intel has little penetration in the mobile device market, and the Atom processor hasn't really been able to compete with ARM. Intel might find it worthwhile to add MIPS both for the patent portfolio and the opportunity to better compete with ARM in the mobile market. They can certainly afford the price.
Intel used to license ARM IP, and had its own line of StrongARM processors, before selling it to Freescale in a reorganization. If they bought MIPS, they wouldn't be licensing someone else's technology. It would be theirs, because they bought it. And Intel has the fabs and the process technology to manufacture MIPS based chips in any form desired.
I don't expect it to occur for corporate ego reasons - it would be an implicit admission Intel has been unable to compete with X86 based designs in the mobile space, and had to acquire different technology they didn't create to do so. But it might make sense for them to do so.