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Appeared on: Friday, March 23, 2012
Embedded Graphics: Imagination Technologies Is The GPU IP Leader, Qualcomm Sells The Most SoCs

Jon Peddie Research (JPR) announced estimated mobile devices graphics chip shipments for 2011. Mobile devices include smartphones, tablets, cameras, vehicles, and game consoles.

Increasingly mobile devices have a graphics processor and those processors are integrated in the device's system on a chip (SoC) application processor.

The application processors are made by semiconductor manufacturers including Broadcom, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Nvidia, ST-Ericson, Renesas, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Samsung, and others. All these companies fall into one of two categories, vertically integrated, and IP buyers.

Nvidia, Qualcomm and ZiiLabs are the vertically integrated companies with their own GPU designs; all the others buy GPU IP from one of five IP suppliers, ARM, DMP, Imagination Technologies, Takumi, and Vivante.

The exceptions to this tidy categorization are Broadcom and Samsung which buy IP and also have an internal GPU design. Apple makes a SoC, but does not sell it commercially.

According to JPR, the leading high volume suppliers of application processors (i.e., SoCs) are Apple, Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and Samsung. Three of the four use Imagination Technologies' GPU IP. Those companies, plus several others who use Imagination Technologies IP puts Imagination Technologies as the industry leader in supplying GPU IP, vertically integrated or otherwise, according to JPR's data.

However, of the SoC suppliers, Qualcomm is the clear leader. So Imagination sells more IP to several SoCs, but Qualcomm is the largest SoC supplier, and uses their own GPU design.

Other SoC suppliers buying GPU IP include Actions Semiconductor, Freescale, Huawei, Ingenic, Rockchip, and Wonder Media/VIA. These companies have products in the feature phone market; some are just entering the smartphone and tablet segment.

JPR's analysts expect the market share to be shift dramatically through 2012 as the existing players get more aggressive, customers lose share, and two new IP companies to enter the market.

Imagination recently announced the first products in its PowerVR Series 6 family, previously codenamed "Rogue." The company also said it has eight licensees for Series 6 cores including: ST-Ericsson, Texas Instruments, Renesas and MediaTek (plus JPR believes Apple, Intel, and Samsung). This is along with MStar, Ricoh and Rockchip, joining existing partners like Sony, Sigma and Realtek for the company?s PowerVR Series5 family. Vivante is the surprising number two in IP GPU suppliers. Products incorporating Vivante technologies are based on the Marvell Armada and PXA communications processor. The PXA920 ships in mass market China Mobile OMS and Android TD smartphones from ASUS, Huawei, Lenovo, Samsung, ZTE and many others. Vivante?s other licensees include Texas Instruments, Freescale, HiSilicon, Ingenic, Rockchip, and many more. JPR is including in its definition of "mobile": Smartphones, high-end feature phones, Tablets, Portable Game consoles, Cameras, and vehicles. Plenoptic cameras with interactive performance using GPUs and embedded cameras with GPUs like Lytro and Ximea will show up this year.

The research firm did not include Navigational units because it could not find many that used a GPU. JPR also specifically excluded TVs, STBs, DVD players, watches, MP3 players, and digital picture frames. JPR estimates that as GPU IP prices drop and the quest for differentiation continues, combined with everything being on-line all the time, and the internet of things, GPUs will find their way into these other devices. But, it didn?t happen in 2011.


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