back to article Drooping smartphone sales mean hard times ahead for Brit chipmaker

British chip firm Imagination Technologies has said that a slowdown in the top end of the smartphone market, where Apple and Samsung dominate, will hit the number of chips it ships in the second half of the year. The company warned that it now expected its partners, including the fruity firm, to need between 580 million and …


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  1. Metrognome

    No sympathy

    That's the same Imagination Tech of Poulsbo infamy.

    They even managed to tarnish Intel's otherwise OK reputation among the Linux community with their antics.

    As far as I'm concerned I-T can disappear and hopefully take Qualcom with them while they're at it.

  2. DrXym

    Uphill battle

    Ultimately what is necessary is for Google to ship a version of Android and an NDK which targets a llvm runtime. It's a pain in the arse to support multiple backends - either apps have to produce separate apks for each architecture or bundle up all the binaries into one apk and everyone suffers the added bloat. It also adds to the testing and support effort.

    If there was just one backend then apps would automatically target any CPU architecture for free. The runtime could convert the llvm bitcode to native on first invocation and cache it somewhere. I don't see any hope for MIPS (or Intel) otherwise.

  3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    The biter bit

    Imagination tried to screw ARM over which is why ARM went on to develop its own graphics chips (Mali) which it offers under the usual attractive terms to its customers. Imagination still produces some great chips but is increasingly dependent upon Apple for sales.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apple will have their own GPU

      They better not depend on Apple for long. It was widely reported last year that Apple started hiring a lot of GPU designers from AMD and elsewhere to join their CPU design team they acquired from the Intrinsity purchase that designed the A6 and A7. So the odds are good it will release the A8 containing an Apple designed GPU next year, or if not certainly by the following year with A9.

  4. another_vulture

    saturated market

    Let's do the math. They are selling chips at a rate of >500M/quarter, or >2Billion/year. Assume each phone needs one chip. in 4 years, they provide enough chips for 8 billion phones. But there are only 7 billion humans on the planet, and that includes infants.

    1. Gaius

      Re: saturated market


      Anyway, every chipmaker is gambling on the "internet of things". That's what IPv6 is for, and that is where the growth is expected to come from.

      1. Scoular

        Re: saturated market

        But there is no solid evidence that the public care enough to want an internet of things yet.

        Not every great ambition of vendors actually works out.

        1. MarketingTechnoDude

          Re: saturated market

          Also ...

          Will such devices need the enormous processing capabilities which have been developed and deployed for smartphones (Modem, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPU(s), CPU(s), GPS, Audio, Video, NFC, Camera(s), etc...)?

          Users interact with their smartphones on a very regular basis and are therefore very aware of benefits in speed, interactivity and the captivation of the applications (and by implication the processing resources they use - although they typically don't equate this). If there is a new killer app that runs like a dog on their existing smartphone, then they will be tempted to upgrade. Many just upgrade anyway due to the particular contract finance model that perpetuates the ongoing upgrade process.

          What would an Internet of things device offer to be as captivating as a smartphone or tablet? The only devices that need heavy duty graphics/video processing in the mass market are: 1) The PC/Laptop, 2) The Smartphone, 3) The Tablet/Fondleslab, 4) The games console, 5) The SmartTV, 6) The Smart STB/PVR/Dongle, 7) In Car infomatics/entertainment

          More likely is that Internet of things silicon devices will merely contain lower cost silicon chip devices which include Low power CPU, Wifi (or other digital modem), Sensor processing (could be image and/or Audio or other environmental sensors), device control (e.g lighting, motors, compressors, actuators, ..)

          They will be unlikely to be in any way as captivating as a smartphone or tablet. Remember also, the smartphone is in effect the modern day equivalent of slapping down a set of executive car keys on the bar at the pub! ... i.e. a visible status symbol which drives growth (latest greatest model)...

          So the industry is going to be looking for the next golden goose. Before the smartphone, many silicon vendors were focussed on picking up crumbs from Intels Table (i.e. the PC such as graphics processors, media processors, mixed signal devices ...). The smartphone has enabled stellar growth for Silicon IP vendors who had the right technology/biz model/engagement at the right time (ARM CPU, Imagination GPU... ) ... Just how much more graphics (and CPU cores) do we need in a smartphone that will be so compelling to drive the future massive customer upgrade cycles?

          The CPU, by its very nature, is extremely generic and can be deployed in many markets and can leverage the tools and o/s utilised in the mass market smartphone environment. Less so for the GPU unless it is used more as a SIMD/MIMD style data processor for sensor processing. It will probably be much less efficient than a dedicated hardware (old school ASIC) approach, but time to market pressures and vast swathes of cheap silicon real estate will make it economically viable and offer fast time to market (so long as the softies don't screw it up).

          So in this decade we will increasingly see IP vendors picking up crumbs from ARM's table and having to focus upon fragmented smaller emerging markets. Devices in the new emerging Internet of things will have a much longer in market utilisation time by the user than we have seen in the smartphone/tablet market. An internet fridge is not exactly a status symbol and not something that you are going to upgrade every 12-24 months!

          Interesting times ahead.... Thinking caps on silicon jockeys!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Er, they don't make chips. They don't even design whole chips (except maybe for their Pure DAB radios). They design graphics processors (mainly) which get incorporated into the design of chips by Apple and others.

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