According to Vivante, one of the core's advantages, even when performance isn't top notch, is die size. The photo below compares the SGX544 (functionally identical to the SGX543 in the iPhone 4S) against the Vivante GC1000. While these two chips are compared at 28nm, the relative proportions of the two solutions shouldn't change at 45nm.
The die size advantage the GC1000 possesses over the SGX543 is considerable. That's not going to convince top-brand manufacturers to automatically opt for Vivante products, but it's part of the company's greater strategy to appeal to a host of smaller manufacturers.Vivante's goal at this time isn't to compete with the top-end hardware from Nvidia, Imagination Technologies, or Qualcomm. Instead, the company has focused on creating small, low-power cores that can scale up to hit higher performance targets, but focus on economy of scale for now. The manufacturers that are using Vivante hardware -- Marvell, Freescale, Rockchip and the like -- are often smaller themselves. But with the Chinese and Indian markets growing rapidly, there's demand for product that can hit tiny die sizes.
That may be important to some of Vivante's customers. While TSMC and GlobalFoundries continue pushing smaller process nodes, companies like Marvell and Freescale cannot make the jump as quickly. Being able to implement high-efficiency cores in larger geometries could actually be part of an overall strategy to compete with high-end companies and minimize costs. Viewed from a performance-per-die area standpoint, the Vivante GC1000 is actually more efficient than the SGX543MP2 at the heart of the iPhone 4S, and that's a significant achievement for a fairly young company.
If the company continues to pick up design wins at its current rate, it could command significant market share within a few years -- and we'll start seeing more robust implementations that compete with top-tier tablets and smartphones, rather than staking out positions in the midrange.
This is one company to keep an eye on...