Apple making iPhone into gaming graphics powerhouse – PA Semi acquisition hints at in-house chip design

Huge display, multi-touch interaction, powerful processor, advanced graphics core – these are all things that make the current iPhone a potential mobile gaming powerhouse. Thanks to Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR MBX 3D graphics video core that lies within the iPhone’s Samsung-manufactured ARM SoC (System on Chip) chip architecture, OpenGL ES 1.1 is supported by the Apple iPhone, along with other powerhouse handsets like the Nokia N95 – allowing the handsets to handle 3D graphics and video content with ease.

PowerVR SGX video core

Imagination has announced their new PowerVR SGX graphics core, which offers OpenGL ES 2.0 support and a Universal Scalable Shader Engine that brings highly efficient, shader-based 3D graphics to the mobile space.

And, to handle HD video content, Imagination has developed a new PowerVR VXD Core that is specialized to decode and process HD video content. The HD video media could be viewed directly on the device or through an external output source with the same power draw as current audio playback technologies.

So, what’s all the hoopla about? Well, Samsung, the current iPhone ARM processor manufacturer, has signed a manufacturing-only licensing deal to integrate the PowerVR SGX and PowerVR VXD technologies into future SoC architectures. The deal makes it likely that the next-generation iPhone will be able to handle not only OpenGL ES 2.0 but also HD video content – if Apple decides to source their processors from Samsung.

Another possibility is rooted in Apple’s recent acquisition of chip-design firm PA Semi and a “mysterious” licensing agreement that Imagination announced last year.

According to Imagination, the company signed a licensing deal to give “next generation graphics and video IP cores to an international electronics systems company under a multi-use licensing agreement.” The electronics systems company was no named, but it could turn out to be Apple. And, with the acquisition of PA Semi, all signs point to Apple leveraging its newly acquired chip-design expertise to make chip-design an in-house venture. Apple could be poised to design its own SoC chip architectures that make use of Imagination’s PowerVR VXD and PowerVR SGX graphics technologies, while Samsung would handle the manufacturing of the chips.

The current-generation iPhone is already a graphics and gaming powerhouse – already outperforming dedicated gaming handhelds like the Nintendo DS and PSP. With the integration of the new technologies from Imagination, the next-generation iPhone is shaping up to offer some serious 3D graphics and HD video capacity. It’s all speculation at this point (as with everything 3G iPhone-related these days), so we’ll have to sit tight and hope that Apple comes through with this new tech in hand.

[Via: AppleInsider]

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