Apple buy 3.6% of Imagination mobile graphics experts

Apple have bought a 3.6-percent stake in mobile system-on-chip graphics developer Imagination Technologies, in a deal worth around £3.2m ($4.94m).  Imagination are responsible for the PowerVR MBX graphics processor core, used in the iPhone and many other mobile devices, that offers high video performance with minimal power requirements.  The news confirms rumors from September, and suggests that the products of Apple's PA Semi acquisition could be closer to market than expected.

Imagination specialise in graphics, video and display accelerators, together with multi-threaded processors and multi-standard receiver technologies. Their particular expertise in mobile devices has fuelled speculation that Apple plan more ultraportable computing bridging the gap between the iPhone and the current MacBook range.

PowerVR SGX, Imagination Technologies' successor to the MBX core, adds OpenGL ES 2.0 support and introduces a Universal Scalable Shader Engine; that would mean mobile devices could begin using highly efficient, shader-based 3D graphics.  The new hardware could find its way into a new Apple netbook-style device, but is also likely to play a key role in the third-generation iPhone.