First Read

A first take on enterprise IT technology news and events.

Intel Looking to Dump Stake in Imagination

Intel has been using Imagination's PowerVR graphics technology in some processors, but Imagination also competes with Intel via its MIPS chips.

Intel logo

Intel reportedly is selling off its 4.9 percent stake in Imagination Technologies, a company that has gone from partner to more of a competitor after it bought the low-power MIPS chip technology in 2012.

Once the 13.4 million shares are sold off, neither the Intel Foundation—which deals with charitable and educational programs for the chip maker—nor Intel's investment arm Intel Capital will have any stake in Imagination, according to JP Morgan Securities.

Intel first bought a stake in Imagination in 2006 and has used the company's PowerVR graphics technology in some of its chips, including the low-power Atom platform for such mobile devices as tablets and smartphones. Now the PowerVR technology can be found in Intel's Atom "Moorfield" systems-on-a-chip (SoCs).

Imagination's graphics chips can be found in a broad range of mobile devices, including Apple's iPhones and iPads. Apple also owns an 8.5 percent stake in Imagination.

More than two years ago, Imagination bought MIPS for $100 million with the plan to muscle its way into the market for mobile chips, which currently is dominated by ARM and such manufacturing partners as Samsung, Qualcomm and Nvidia. Intel also is aggressively pushing into the space through its low-power Atom and Quark chip families. Imagination also wants to leverage MIPS for such new growth areas as the Internet of things (IoT) and wearable computing devices, again both areas where Intel and ARM compete.

Imagination officials also have talked about MIPS having a future in dense, low-power servers.

MIPS at one time was among the leading RISC processor architectures, running in systems from the likes of Silicon Graphics (SGI) and communications products from Cisco Systems and others. However, ownership changes and competition over the past several years have hampered MIPS, though Imagination executives have said the technology has a strong future in the mobile computing arena.

Like ARM, Imagination creates and licenses chip designs to partners, which then put in their own technologies and build the chip. Last year, Imagination—with the help of such vendors as Broadcom, Qualcomm, Cavium and PMC—launched an open-source consortium designed to attract developers who want to make software that can run on a range of systems powered by MIPS processors. The founders named the group the Prpl (pronounced "Purple") Foundation.