MADISON, Wis. — MIPS has returned to Santa Clara as an independent company, fresh with VC gold, and — it says — ready to hire.
Tallwood Venture Capital, a U.S. venture capital firm, led the acquisition of MIPS from Imagination Technologies last October. Tallwood has been joined by Paxion Capital Partners as investors in MIPS. There also appears to be another VC — unnamed at this point — pitching in soon.
MIPS' prodigal return to the Bay Area is welcome news for MIPS team members who’ve stuck it out through thick and thin.
Reportedly, MIPS clients and OEMs are equally delighted to learn that MIPS is returning to its embedded roots, Majid Bemanian, MIPS’ director of marketing, told EE Times. The processor core IP supplier held meetings with present, past and future customers and OEMs in a private suite at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, he said.
MIPS’ priorities are getting back into the embedded space, realigning its resources, exploring a future role in the red-hot AI market and becoming a self-sustaining entity.
MIPS’ future is boosted by hands-on involvement and stewardship by Dado Banatao, the managing partner of Tallwood Venture Capital and now chairman of the MIPS board. Banatao, who has been an investor, entrepreneur and engineer deeply rooted in Silicon Valley, has been called a “visionary.” He commands respect throughout the semiconductor industry. Before turning to venture capitalism, he co-founded S3, Chips and Technologies, and Mostron.
On the first day MIPS returned to being an independent company, Banatao gathered everyone at MIPS, made a soaring speech and affirmed his commitment to taking MIPS back to the future.
“Everyone was very encouraged by Dado’s speech,” said Bemanian, who believes it has helped retain much of MIPS’ core engineering talent.
However, MIPS is disclosing neither its size today nor the number of people it has lost since Imagination Technologies acquired MIPS five years ago. “We need to re-organize ourselves first,” said Bemanian. “But we will be hiring more people soon.”
Lost identity, foot print
While MIPS was under Imagination Technologies’ roof, it lost focus, its own identity and its footprint on the market. Bemanian acknowledged during the interview that many MIPS engineers felt as though they were forced into becoming what they were not in order to support its parent company. Imagination had hoped MIPS could be the processing core in the mobile market. “We felt as though we lost our heritage,” Bemanian said.
In two years since Imagination chose to spin off MIPS, the MIPS team has come together, trying to chart a path to get back on track in the embedded market, he said. “We know MIPS has so much to offer in terms of real-time support, multithreaded architecture and virtualization, in addition to functional safety and security," he added, claiming some of the work they’ve already done in the last two years is beginning to gain traction on the market.
There is no doubt that MIPS is an iconic CPU architecture. But the big question now is how long it can remain relevant in a market where RISC-V is rising?
Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told EE Times, “MIPS can certainly remain relevant. It's still a classic RISC architecture that has been used for years. There's still support for MIPS by Microchip for microcontrollers. The architecture is extensible, so it's possible to add instructions for inference acceleration.”
Krewell added, “What's missing is mainstream operating system support (Android and Windows). Even embedded OS support is starting to wane.” Further, the problem, as he sees it, is “that the trajectory for MIPS was heading in the wrong direction and with the rise of RISC-V, there was less and less reason to support MIPS as an alternative to ARM.”
He added, “Many high-performance MIPS designs for networking were all moving to ARM64 and support from Cisco was going away.”
However, MIPS’ Bemanian remains hopeful. Besides Microchip, large customers sticking with MIPS include Mobileye, now an Intel company, and MediaTek. Denso, a large automotive tier one in Japan, is also a MIPS’ customer.
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