With the incredible amount of product that Apple pushes, and the company's knack for secrecy, it's easy to understand why Apple would want to use as much in-house hardware as possible. Doing so doesn't just allow Apple to claim that the lion's share of the technology in its devices is its own, but it allows them to to better-tune the products from top to bottom. In 2008, we saw the company acquire chip producer PA Semi, which eventually resulted in the creation of Apple's A-series chips. Now, according to Ars Technica, we could see the company next snatch up Imagination Technologies.
You might not know the Imagination Technologies name, but chances are good that you've used one of its products: it develops the PowerVR GPU core, which is found inside every single iDevice since the iPhone 4, as well as a multitude of other devices (such as the ASUS ZenFone 2) that don't use a Qualcomm SoC. Qualcomm uses its own Adreno GPU.
While Imagination has focused on a number of different product types in the past, it's recently decided to put all of its weight behind PowerVR. In recent months, Imagination has been touting support for the Vulkan API, and has shown a number of demos off at various trade shows around the world. An example can be seen above, which shows how Vulkan can dramatically improve gaming performance by taking better advantage of available multi-core CPU resources.
Adding some credence to this rumor, Apple has owned a fairly significant share of Imagination for at least 8 years now. And while no movement has been made since 2009, the time could be right for Apple to take the plunge. When you consider that Imagination is only valued at £500 million - an effective drop-in-the-bucket for Apple - it does seem to make sense that the company would acquire Imagination and bring another component in-house, along with a treasure trove of IP and patents.
If such an acquisition happens, will Apple continue to license PowerVR tech to third-parties or keep it all for itself? It's hard to say at this point, but if it does happen, chip-maker licensees may have to opt for an alternative, or choose a different SoC maker altogether (such as Qualcomm).
The implications of an Apple acquisition of Imagination Technologies could have far-reaching impact in the mobile space, especially for SoC makers that currently leverage PowerVR technology and may be forced to seek an alternative.