Published in Graphics

Imagination Technologies cuts shipment forecast

by on07 March 2014

Having trouble keeping up

Imagination Technologies has been one of the leading suppliers of mobile GPU solutions for years, but after years of strong growth it now appears that the outfit is about to plateau. Imagination has revised its forecast for shipments of mobile SoCs with its GPUs and the company now expects between 520 and 550 million units will be shipped this year. Originally it was hoping for 580 to 630 million.

Although these are impressive figures, it should be noted that mobile GPU IP doesn't add much to the price of a SoC. In fact, chipmakers often pay as little as ten cents per unit, although high-end designs cost a bit more.

This is indicative of a wider problem for Imagination. Its design wins usually come in the form of high-end gear. For example, it has been supplying Apple with top notch GPUs for years. However, the company doesn't make that much money in the low end space, which is dominated by ARM Mali GPUs and it is attracting players like Qualcomm and Vivante. According to Reuters, Imagination hopes to gain share in that particular segment in the second half of the year. 

It will not be easy. ARM's new Mali cores are impressive and ARM can leverage its position to gain plenty of design wins. Vivante has made a lot of progress over the last year or so and it has gained a lot of share. Qualcomm has stepped up its focus on low-end and mid-range SoCs with integrated LTE and Adreno graphics.

The two elephants in the room are Intel and Nvidia. Their market share in the mobile SoC space is tiny at the moment, but this may be about to change. Intel is throwing a lot of money at hardware partners in an effort to secure more sales in the tablet space. Over the next couple of years it might go after the smartphone space as well, especially once it starts integrating LTE.

Nvidia poses a different kind of threat. It is planning to start licensing Maxwell IP for mobile SoCs. While the company's market share in the SoC world is low at the moment, it could become a force to be reckoned with in the mobile GPU IP space.

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