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Mips to Be Carved Up

It’s being acquired for $60 million by UK-based Imagination Technologies

Mips Technologies, the RISC chip pioneer, is getting carved up.

It's being acquired for $60 million by UK-based Imagination Technologies, which is partially owned by Apple and Intel and makes GPUs for Apple's iPhone 5 and iPad 4 as well as Intel's CloverTrail-based Windows 8 tablets. Meanwhile an ARM-led consortium, dubbed Bridge Crossing, is buying 498 Mips patents and patent applications for $350 million.

ARM will contribute $167.5 million for the IP and Imagination will get ownership of 82 key Mips architecture patents along with royalty-free rights to the rest of the kit and caboodle.

With an eye to taking on ARM, Imagination CEO Hossein Yassaie said in a statement, "I believe that the combination of our existing...CPU technologies...with MIPS' capabilities will help us to create a new force to be reckoned with in the CPU IP market."

Mips widgetry supports Android and Imagination has visions of establishing an integrated business of enhanced scale on several fronts and a new power in CPU development and licensing.

According to ARM the deal "presents an opportunity for companies to neutralize any potential infringement risk from these patents in the further development of advanced embedded technology." Bridge Crossing will license the patents to companies that aren't members of the consortium.

Who else besides ARM is in the consortium is a mystery.

Nowadays Mips, whose processor was supposed to run Windows NT back in 1993, is supplying power-efficient chips for Cisco routers, Motorola set-top boxes and Sony game machines.

Despite the 700 million parts it collected tribute on last year from its 56 royalty-paying licensees it still couldn't make a profit. In the fiscal year ended in June it lost $9 million on revenues of $60 million. It recently launched a new performance- and area-efficient Aptiv generation of cores.

The acquisition should close in Q1 and Imagination expects it to be accretive in fiscal 2014.

Mips' RISC-based 32-bit and 64-bit CPU applications processor architectures are said to complement Imagination's existing Meta 32-bit embedded CPU IP product family. The architectures have similar philosophies in several key areas including hardware multi-threading as well as complementary capabilities. Imagination figures "the resulting combined CPU IP offering will become one of the industry's strongest and most comprehensive."

The first public rumor of Mips' potential sale trace back to April.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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