Why is Apple investing in the UK-based Imagination Technologies Group?

Sun, Dec 21, 2008


Earlier this week it was revealed that Apple bought a 3.6% stake in the UK-based Imagination Technologies Group.  Apple doesn’t just gobble up and invest in companies for the hell of it.  Instead, investments and purchases are carefully considered, thoroughly researched, and are always part of a larger plan.

So who or what is Imagination Technologies Group?  Well, Fastcompany has a quick and dirty primer for anyone who wants to keep abreast of what Apple’s future plans might be.

IMG’s technology, PowerVR, is comprised of a “system-on-a-chip” processor that includes an advanced graphics core and video decoding technology. In April, IMG said it had a major electronics-maker ready to license its technology. Today, the mystery of who that electronics-maker might be has come to an end, after IMG announced Apple’s investment.

So what has inspired Apple to own 3% of this company and its mobile graphics chips? According to AppleInsider, “Those parts will introduce OpenGL ES 2.0 support, along with a Universal Scalable Shader Engine that will provide mobile devices with highly efficient, shader-based 3D graphics.” OpenGL, or Open Graphics Library, is an open API, or “application programming interface,” by which software developers can develop 2D and 3G graphics. It competes with Microsoft’s [MSFT] DirectX software, which only runs in Windows devices. OpenGL software can be written for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows.

OpenGL ES 2.0 support and a scalable shader engine will enable the iPhone to render graphics like a real computer does — that will give the device ground-breaking graphical abilities. That won’t just apply to games, either, but to OS screen effects, 3rd-party apps, maps, and other facets of the interface. Desktop computers now use OpenGL 3.0, so this won’t bring the iPhone quite up to speed with your MacBook. But it will mimic the graphics support of say, a PowerBook circa 2006.

Because the guts of smartphones are increasingly becoming commodotized — many have the same components, coming from the same companies — the next decade of smartphone-makers might have to distinguish themselves by software alone. In that case, PowerVR components should give Apple a hardware edge, too.

Check out the full article over here.


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